If The Shoe Fits…

As a writer, having writer’s block is a regular occurring thing for me. To the public, it looks like I just push out these blog posts every week with grace. But behind the scenes, my ass is going through a constant rollercoaster of anxiety and stress. I work on a piece throughout the week on top of my 8-5 job, and once it hits the weekend I feel a sense of relief because the work week is over. But then I have that sense of panic because I know it’s grind time to put the finishing touches on my blog post. Sundays are when my procrastinating ass starts to feel more pressure. But once it hits Monday after 5 PM, it is straight to the laptop I go. That’s when I know it’s time to put in work because it’s blog post day. The adrenaline kicks in, Will I post it on time? What should be my pull quote? Do I have a visual? How will this post perform?

Once I press that “Publish” button and share it across all my socials, I feel a sense of relief and peace. I made it through another week. All that hard work was not for nothing. Good shit. Once everything is posted and up, I finally chill out. But that brief bliss is short lived, as I know that the next day, the same cycle will continue. However, Tuesdays are a different kind of stress because Tuesdays are the days I have to start from scratch and figure out what I’m going to write about for the upcoming week. If I’m being completely honest, I’m almost 3 years deep into posting consistently every week, and I’m surprised that I haven’t ran out of shit to write about. Each time I hit writer’s block and think that I have written about every fucking topic already, I somehow push through with a new post. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing and everything that comes with it, but when you’re trying to juggle your day job and passion at the same time, it can get stressful.

When I hit writer’s block, it’s usually when I’m overthinking a topic to write about. When I literally can’t be writing because I’m at work, doing something else, or trying to sleep – that’s when my mind runs wild. I get all my best ideas when I’m not sitting in front of my computer thinking, “What am I going to write?” It’s so annoying, but that’s what I have found to be true. I have tried to make it a habit to document my idea on my notes on my phone so I can at least revisit it later. This has helped greatly because it allows me to dig deeper into that topic at another time.

I have a list of topics on my phone to write about, but when Tuesdays come around and I have to make an executive decision to pick a topic and roll with it, suddenly I think everything on the list sucks. And if I’m being real, some writing topics have remained on the list for over 2 years because when the time comes, I just don’t have the desire to write about it anymore. It obviously interested me at some point since I wrote it down, but when it’s time to pick a topic, I tend to over think what I’m going to post next really hard. Ironically, 9 times out of 10, I end up writing about a thought or idea that came out of the blue and wasn’t even on my list. It’s not uncommon for me to be working on a piece throughout the week, and on Sunday, scrap it all and start from scratch on another story. It all depends on what I’m feeling. If I’m not pleased with it, I’m not publishing it.

And I bet you’re wondering – Is what she’s writing about relevant to her personal life at the moment? And the answer is yes and no. It all depends. Most of the time, if I’m feeling something very intensely that doesn’t really involve anyone else, I’ll try to write about it in the moment. It’s a great way for me to sort out my thoughts and emotions because a lot of the time I don’t know where to begin to process what I’m feeling. However, if it’s a topic that involves specific people, sometimes I’m on the fence about posting or sharing my take on a situation or story because I don’t want anyone to feel bad when reading my posts. Especially if I’m writing about someone’s present situation that is still unfolding. It screams “too obvious” and shady.

But like most artists, I can’t help but pull inspiration from my personal life. Usually conversations with close friends and family will inspire me to write a piece. But unlike Carrie from “Sex and the City,” you won’t find me putting my close friends and family’s business out there so blatantly on the table. I respect people’s privacy, but also know that these are topics that so many people can relate to. If I’m drawing inspiration from those around me and what they and I are going through in our personal lives, I try to write my post as tastefully as possible without having anyone feel like I’m secretly at-ing them.

Recently, conversations with family and friends have drastically changed throughout the years. As it should, as we are all experiencing different and new stages in our lives. A lot of the conversations I’m having with those around me focuses on our past, how we were brought up and how that affects us as adults, how we process feelings and emotions, how we express our love language and our communication styles, cultural differences, dreams, goals, healing, and bettering ourselves overall. The emphasis these last couple of years have been being more self-aware with how we react to things, handle stress, and what we can do to heal our inner child and be good people for ourselves and to others.

That all sounds nice, but it isn’t all smiles and rainbows. Realizing a lot of these actions and patterns can be a very disappointing journey. Especially when you are aware of these unwanted traits, but can’t seem to progress as fast as you’d like. It’s that constant back and forth that gets people down sometimes. In the age of social media, there is this belief that everyone needs to project and present their best selves at all times. But that’s not how life works. Nobody is perfect. And it only seems right to document those small hiccups in my life, and the experiences of others in a tasteful way.

When I draw inspiration from the situations of those around me, I make it a point to let whoever know that I’ll be referencing the conversation / their scenario without giving too much detail as to who they are. Though I am a writer and creative, I first and foremost want to make sure that my friends and family feel comfortable talking about things with me without fearing that I’ll write about it without their knowledge. Trust is so important to me. And as a writer, especially as a journalist, I don’t want to lose sight of the relationships and trust I have with people for the sake of a blog post.

However, those around me are very supportive with my blog. When I suggest that I may write about someone’s current situation, feelings, or predicament, I am almost always met with support and encouragement. The people closest to me know that I will never throw them under the bus or make their business so public to the world, especially if it involves other people besides themselves. These are heavy topics. But I think it’s important to keep the conversations going because so many people can relate to it.

Since I talk about really raw and real situations, a lot of the time as a reader, you can’t help but make correlations and mental notes from your own life. I have had people tell me that my posts made them reflect on their own actions or how they perceive and go about certain situations. There have also been a handful of times where people have asked me if my post was about them. The times people have asked if it was in reference to them, the answer was genuinely a no. But when confronted with the question of whether or not a post was about them or not, I think in my head:

Well…. if the shoe fits….

It’s therapeutic to continue talking about subjects that keep coming up in conversation in your different circles. Recently, I’ve noticed that my writing has heavily focused on personal growth, healing, and tons of self-realizations. And that’s because I’m continuing the conversations I have with those close to me, by publicly posting my thoughts through my blogs. I think it’s important to keep the conversation going because it gets people digging deeper. When people relate, they are consciously made aware of their own actions and behavior.

I know I write about the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. A lot of the time I share my own personal downfalls and short comings just to show a different side of social media. Not everything is perfect all the time, not everything about you has to be a fake curated version of what you think you should be. This is real life. So if the shoe fits, and a topic I write about resonates with you, just buy the damn shoe and own it! People can be reading the same exact story, but interpret it in completely different ways, leaving with different meanings. Please take what you need from it.

I feel like my posts are going to get more personable and realer real quick. I used to somewhat hold back on what I wrote about because I didn’t want people to think I’m referring to them or sneak dissing anyone. That’s not my intentions at all. There may have been an inspiration to some posts, but a lot of the time I try to point out the bigger picture. So chances are, my posts aren’t about you. But again… if the shoe fits…

Rhonda: Heart Of Gold

Illustration By: Marielle Cabillo (Instagram: @work_in_progress.ai)

If you were to ask me how Rhonda and I got close, I really couldn’t tell you. She was my dad’s first cousin, meaning she was my 2nd cousin, or aunt, or whatever the correct term is. With a 25+ year age gap, Rhonda still insisted that we were “cousins.” So to mess with her, we gave her the nickname “Tita-Lola” (Auntie Grandma).

In the past, the only times I’d ever really see Rhonda in person were at family reunions that are held once a year. Well, reunions and funerals. Our family is so big that we’ll probably never get every single family member at an event…. ever. Despite not growing up together, not seeing each other often, and probably not acknowledging each other at events for the first decade plus of my life, Rhonda and I managed to have a very close bond.

I feel like social media is what helped break the ice in our relationship. When Rhonda added me on social media, I feel like I was given a key into her heart and soul. You know the saying that social media is just the window into someone’s house? That you can only see what they want you to see? That wasn’t the case for Rhonda. Her social media platforms unlocked the door and let you freely roam the “House of Tita-Lola.” If being an open book had a picture in the dictionary, it would have a big ass picture of Rhonda’s selfie.

Rhonda had no problem sending a friend request to anyone and everyone involved with our family. If you were at a family reunion once, have a last name she recognized, or had mutual friends, you probably got a request on Facebook or Instagram. Family meant everything to Rhonda. She knew all the chisme, all the extended family, and wanted to share everything she knew about my great-grandparents and our family history. And whether you wanted to know all that information or not, if you followed her on any socials, you had no choice but to see it.

Tita-Lola did not give a shit about over posting. That term did not exist to her. She used her social media pages more like a Twitter account with how often she posted. But that’s how I, and probably many others, felt like we were close to her without really speaking much in person. Rhonda shared her personal life, opinions, likes, dislikes, family history, rants, and how she was managing her illness. Nothing was off limits to post about. Anything less than 10 posts a day would have me thinking, “Is Rhonda okay?”

Though she loved to share everything online, in person, she took a while to warm up. Rhonda was cool with everyone in the family, but with people she didn’t know very well, she would be a little shy to start up a conversation. But don’t let the shyness fool you – she probably knew everything about you from what you posted on social media. Rhonda would just be waiting for the perfect time to break the ice and attempt to start a conversation.

My sisters and I and our other 2nd cousins initially bonded with Rhonda by (dare I say it…) low-key bullying her. It was all fun and games, and Rhonda was the perfect person to joke around with because she’d sit there, laugh her ass off, but continue to take the mild abuse. Whenever she’d try to defend herself or shit talk us back, we would rebuttal with another joke. Those were good times. And now that I look back, I laugh in my head because we were really out here cappin’ on our fuckin elder and didn’t even know her like that yet hahahah.

I just know that when she realized how foolish and ridiculous my sisters and I can get, she felt more than comfortable to be around us. We got closer and closer as the years passed, and it was no longer awkward to just approach each other at family reunions or other gatherings. It was such a significant age gap, but our relationship just worked. Each family gathering, the Cabillo and Prado girls would gather around to mess with Rhonda, and she loved that shit. It was always a good time when we all got together. Every time we would go home after a gathering, my heart felt full.

I got really close to Rhonda in the last decade. It all started with jokes and acting a fool, but throughout the years, I got to know Rhonda on a deeper level. We had our fun and games moments in person, but we also vented about our lives on a serious note. I knew Rhonda behind the social media posts, the jokes, and the banter. I quickly learned about things that made her happy, things that made her sad, what she dwelled on, what was most important to her, what motivated her, and so on. She vented to me about her health, problems, and all the many situations she would get herself into. And bitch, there were many, hahaha. Rhonda, I know you’re looking down on me like “don’t you say nothing, beezy!”

Quickly, Rhonda became someone I could turn to if I needed someone to talk to, but most of the time, I listened. I listened to the many things that were on her mind. And I think that’s why we got so close. She had so much to say, and I listened and gave my 2 cents. Ironically, the girl that posted so much online to stay “connected,” felt overwhelmingly alone from time to time. I wanted to be there for her when she needed someone because I knew she would do the same for me. It was a great feeling knowing I had a family member who could offer me advice, judgement free.

Rhonda vented to me a lot about her health. I know she posted a lot about her situation on social media in detail, so it would kind of be a reiteration of what she already shared. Rhonda was very transparent with her health complications – she would post photos of her dialysis, her medicine shipments, her appointments, good and bad news, and everything in-between. Unknowingly, she gave us all a glimpse into her daily life, and we would see how much it took to upkeep her medications and treatments. Whether you wanted to see it or not, her followers got an overwhelming sense of her daily reality. Her posts would have you thinking, “Damn, how does she do it?” And yet, she did it. Tita-Lola was very hopeful, yet very realistic, about finding a kidney donor. Rhonda had my younger sister make business cards to help get the word around. She never gave up.

Rhonda’s health took up a lot of her time. Every appointment, every medication, every shot, every timed meal, was a constant reminder about her reality. There would be days where I talked to her, and she would unpack everything on her mind. I think what made our relationship special was the fact that we could be brutally honest with each other. I knew her daily routine took a huge toll on her, some days it would get to her more than others, and I had to remind her that it was okay. It was okay to feel what she was feeling, it was okay to feel sad, it was okay to vent out those emotions to me. What would make me especially sad was knowing that whatever I could say for comfort would not change her reality. That was the saddest part, to know that all I could do was be there for her and hope for a miracle.

Whether she realized it or not, Rhonda would find joy in the smallest things. I think that’s what made her so strong, the fact that she took on so much with her health on a day to day basis, but still managed to get excited off of the most random things. From PEZ, to music, to her celebrity girl crushes (the fact that I know her celebrity crushes though, bye lmfao), to anything San Francisco related (#BornAndBred) – these things alone could make her day. But nothing could make her day more than the interactions she had with Damian and Delilah. Her nephew and niece was her whole life. Rhonda would literally do anything to see a smile on their faces. She would document their small interactions on Facebook, and you could feel the overwhelming sense of love she had for them just by reading their commentary. They are what kept her going.

Everyone knows how big Rhonda was on family. And family just didn’t mean blood related, her friends became her family as well. Anyone who Rhonda considered “family,” she was loyal to for life. Once you made an imprint on Tita-Lola, she would never forget you. Even the friendships that drifted apart or ended on bad terms, she would still wish the best for that person. We would have many talks about people she remembered from the past, and how she still cherishes the friendships because it meant a lot to her at some point in her life. Rhonda always tried to give people the benefit of the doubt and see the good in them. If anything ever went sour, in her heart she wished them the best and clung to the good memories. She had such a big heart, and always chose to be the bigger person.

Family was everything to Rhonda. The love she had for her grandparents (my great-grandparents) was so strong that it could transcend lifetimes. Rhonda loved and missed them so much, I know that they had such a big impact on her life. I could tell that decades later, her grief from their passing was still fresh. However, she tried to use her sorrow in a positive way. She tried to educate the younger generations about our family history by telling us stories about the great-grandparents that I never got to meet. Every time Rhonda missed them, she would post a photo, a memory, or a story about them online. “This is where it all began, the reason why we’re all here,” my dad says every time we visit his grandparents’ grave. It was true, and Rhonda felt the exact same way. She took it upon herself to make sure that everybody in the family knew exactly where we came from, who started it all. She wanted to make sure that their names lived on in our family history.

A few weeks before her passing, it dawned on me that I haven’t checked up on Rhonda in a while. So, I texted her and we picked up from where we left off. She updated me about her life, what was going on, how her health was, etc. The last text message I sent her was after I read a status she posted on Facebook saying she was being taken off the donor list. It was a few weeks before she had her health complications, and I wanted her to know that a lot of people love and care about her. I didn’t know how to comfort her during this time, what do you say to someone that receives that kind of news? I just wanted her to know that I saw the update, and wanted to send my love.

When I heard the news that Rhonda passed away, of course I was devastated. It didn’t feel like reality. Rhonda? Tita-Lola Rhonda? Rhon?! It’s crazy because obviously I knew first hand how her health was declining, but you just never think that the day will come. And when that day does come, you’re stuck there, dumbfounded. I started to feel an immense amount of guilt, that the last couple of years we didn’t get to hangout as much due to COVID and personal schedules. I wanted to hangout with her and invite her over many times, but held off because of the pandemic. I felt that the last couple of years we weren’t as close as we used to be because we were off doing our own thing. Of course, when we would reconnect it was back to how it used to be, but I felt like I should’ve been there more towards the end.

When I start to get sad and feel guilty, I feel like I can hear Rhonda’s voice in my head, “Don’t worry about it, yo.” I know the last thing she would want me to do is feel guilty. It really didn’t matter how much time went by, whether we talked consistently or not, I knew that once we connected again, nothing would have changed, nothing would be awkward, we’d just pick up from where we left off and update each other on the important things. And I’m grateful that I got 1 last “what’s up” update before she transitioned out of this life.

Rhonda was always there for me for the important things. I knew that I could count on her to give me advice and listen to my troubles, judgment free. Tita-Lola was hands down one of my biggest cheerleaders. She supported my writing, was there to encourage me when I wasn’t confident in myself, and always let me know how proud she was of me with what I’m choosing to do with my writing. That’s why I felt comfortable to tell her the many ideas I have. “But I don’t know…” I would tell her at the end of a wishful thinking rant. I would explain 1 direction I wanted to take my writing, but then think of 5 other things I want to do. I knew I was all over the place, and would feel a little embarrassed as to what people’s opinions would be once I stopped talking. Rhonda would look at me and casually encourage me to do all of it. “Why not?”

She truly made me feel like I could do anything. Of course, the true push will have to come from me and me alone, but to know that I had Rhonda’s support and she was cheering me on from the sidelines in anything I chose, was a great feeling to know. Rhonda would never try to talk me out of the many ideas I had, and for that I’m grateful. She was so happy to see people be passionate about things, and she encouraged it in every way that she could. That’s just who Rhonda was – the most loving, supportive, and simpy mother fucker you will ever meet. I could laugh with her until I cried, but I could also get real with her and cry my heart out if I needed to. And I know she felt the same.

Rhonda was a giver. She would give you the clothes on her back if she thought you needed it. When she said she got you, she meant that shit. I know that because I have been on the receiving end of her generosity and love. Rhonda would listen, but her support wouldn’t just end there. She would literally try to see how she could help your situation, how she can personally make it better. If she loved you, Rhonda made your problem her problem, and if there was an immediate fix, she would do it. I don’t think I know too many people like that. If you knew Rhonda, consider yourself lucky. She was the most kind hearted person, giver by nature, and one of life’s true gems. Rhonda truly had a heart of gold, and I’ll miss her presence in my life.

I really can’t believe that Tita-Lola is gone. It’s a weird feeling to know that I can’t just text her, or DM her, or tag her in something. My Facebook and Instagram feed crickets as the main poster is no longer posting. It’s a trip to know that I’ll never see the green “online” symbol next to her handles. I have avoided reading through our text message and Instagram threads because I don’t want to get sad. Because it doesn’t feel like she’s totally gone. All her posts, pictures, stories, etc, they are living on. When I tagged her in a post a couple of days after she passed, I decided to read our Instagram chat. It was her encouraging me to take the next step, be independent, and accept an offer to move out. She told me, “How many more signs do you need :)? You’re a writer.” That was Tita-Lola, encouraging without being pushy. God, I miss her.

I find a huge comfort in knowing that Rhonda got the reunion she so desperately wanted with her grandparents. I know she has reunited with the many family members she has lost throughout the years. When I miss her or wish she was still here, I remind myself that she is finally at rest. Rhonda is no longer suffering, no longer in pain, no longer on her tedious schedule. She is at peace. And that alone brings me peace. Rhonda fought her fight, and now we have a real one looking over us from the other side.

Tita-Lola, I miss you. But I know you are at peace. I know that if anyone is pulling strings for me on the other side, it’s definitely you. The way you helped guide me and encourage me in this life, will be some of my most cherished memories of you. Before you went, you asked me to help you with our family’s family tree, and all these projects you had in mind. Like you did for my great-grandparents, I will make sure that you are remembered. I’ll have many photos of you flipping me off to share. Please continue to guide me like you always have.

Rest In Peace, Yo.

Ayla: My Body Is Allowed To Change

Story 8 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is Ayla’s story, written in her own words:

“Growing up I would constantly compare myself to my older sister, she was shorter and more petite than I was (and still is). She ran cross country, had a thigh gap, and abs in middle school. Next to her I felt tall and ugly, however, I didn’t know how to express this feeling other than becoming painfully shy. It wasn’t until high school that I became more social and looked at my body differently. I never thought of myself as skinny because the standard of thin was ridiculous in the early 2000’s, but two memories have stayed with me and have shaped my body image. The first came from my older sister. She was commenting on how I had a tummy and how I should learn to ‘suck it in’ so it would look flat. She said I should do this ‘all the time.’ The next incident happened in 11th grade while getting ready for a party. I put on a crop top with low-waisted jeans (of course) and asked my ‘friends’ if I looked fat. None of the girls said anything at first then one responded that I was a little fat and had an overhanging tummy. The idea that my friends thought my body was too big (even if now looking back it was the skinniest I’ve ever been) and I actually shouldn’t show my stomach hurt, at this time I began to view myself as the ‘bigger’ friend not only because I was tall, but now because I knew my friends thought of me as larger than they were. At this time I began to develop body dysmorphia, it got worse when I started comparing myself to other women’s bodies more and more.  

It wasn’t until college that I began viewing my body differently and it was at this time that I discovered the body positivity movement. I was first exposed through Instagram with the model, Ashley Graham, and singer/influencer, Lizzo. They were so unapologetically plus size – I felt inspired! It made me feel better to realize that other women were living comfortably in their own skin. I began to buy clothes that didn’t just make my body look a certain way or I’d fit into when I lost more weight. I bought things that felt good and fit my body! Finding the right clothes remains a challenge for me because of my height, I’m 5’11, so I have to purchase all my jeans online in the ‘Tall’ section of stores and often tops that flatter other people don’t fit me at all! Instead of trying to fit my broad shoulders into the dainty blouses that were currently trending in fashion, I began to shop for what flattered my body. If I could give one piece of advice it would be to stop following trends and start shopping for what feels, looks and is comfortable on you! Although Instagram helped me discover the body positive movement, there was a negative side to the app. I found myself scrolling for hours on models like Emily Ratajkowski and comparing myself to impossible standards, on some level it has destroyed how I view myself. 

The ‘perfect’ body being pushed on Instagram is entangled in the ever changing mainstream media portrayal of how women should look. More recently I have realized that the standard of beauty is so unattainable because convincing women that they are ugly is an entire market, selling makeup, surgeries, injections, skincare and more is a billion dollar industry! If we began to accept and radically love ourselves, then many rich and predominantly white men would lose many millions. However, knowing this doesn’t change the fact that I am still struggling, loving, accepting and living with my body to this day.

In order to change my mindset, I began confronting my body dysmorphia and all that came along with it. I began nourishing my body when I was hungry and not waiting hours until I was starving. I stopped forcing myself to feel guilty if I didn’t workout every day, and told myself to stop the self-degradation -something I’m still working on. For over five years now, I have been struggling and working every day to develop a healthy relationship with food. However, I often go days eating very little, then suddenly binge 2,000 or more calories at night and feel awful about it. My unhealthy relationship with food began in college when I left home and had to take full control over my diet. It was difficult for me to eat three meals a day and it was during this time that I developed an eating disorder that lasted me a little over a year.

My freshman year of college, I would skip meals, eat laxatives, and even take pain meds to curb hunger. I am 5’11, and at my worst, I weighed under 120 lbs. I did this because I associated being skinny with being beautiful. People began commenting on my health and were visibly concerned for my well-being. I remember my boyfriend saying he wanted to see me eat a burger and my grandma encouraging me to have some potato chips. However, it took being constantly weak, often blacking out when I stood up, and being cold all the time to end a year of disordered eating. Since then, finding a balanced and healthy relationship with food is something I am still working on, but it has gotten a lot better over the past six years. 

My relationship with food went from counting calories, only eating when I was starving, always talking about my body, food, and dieting, to eating when I am hungry, treating myself to desserts when I want, and not feeling guilty when I have a burger! There were a few things that led me to accepting my body. The first was when I realized that I would be in this body for the rest of my life and loving it would only make me more beautiful, not less. The next step I took to realizing I had an eating disorder and body dysmorphia was to change my focus to what I loved about my body, not what I hated. I began to appreciate my long legs, my nose that is similar to my cousins and reminds me of my family, belly button and belly ring, smile, and teeth! 

Another step I’ve taken in order to heal my eating disorder and body dysmorphia has been to unfollow Instagram accounts that make me feel bad about my body. Before I go any further with this I’d like to say that I am all for anyone and everyone getting cosmetic surgeries and have nothing against it. However, when influencers post on their pages advertising a product, for example waist trainers, flat tummy tea, etc., when they themselves have had work done and didn’t get their body from those products, it is extremely damaging for mental health. Someone who has had liposuction and a BBL should not be telling their audience that they got their body from a supplement! This is why I have unfollowed and cleaned up my Instagram from influences who lie or omit the truth of where their amazing bodies came from, obviously photoshop their pictures, or advertise a lifestyle that is unrealistic and that they themselves don’t even live. By not seeing these images everyday and replacing them with real women bodies I became happier with my own. 

The last thing I did in order to change the perception I had of my body image was to sometimes take down any full-length mirrors I had around the house. I’ve realized that my body is the LEAST interesting thing about me. I am multifaceted, and getting to know other parts of myself is self-love! By removing the reflection of my body, I have been able to explore so many more positive parts of me, instead of spending an hour in front of the mirror analyzing all the things I dislike about myself. I began to use my time journaling, doing yoga, cooking healthy foods, and spending time with close friends. I no longer associate beauty with having a flat stomach and being thin – beauty is how I make others feel, beauty is my uniqueness, and beauty has no real definition. After discovering the body positivity community, I have moved my focus off of my physical appearance. I began to judge my body less, treat it more gently, and really discover what self love is. 

The body positivity movement was founded by black plus size women, they paved the way for a more inclusive fashion industry, better acceptance of mental health, and helped me change my own personal body image. Although I am not black or plus size, the body positivity movement has helped me lessen my body dysmorphia and taught me to unconditionally love my body. Everyone’s journey with their body is different. Some days, I don’t want to look in the mirror or resent how I look from every angle. What the movement has taught me though is that my body is mine for the rest of my life. It will carry me from birth to death and nourishing it with positive thoughts and actions will let me be my best self. 

Something I’d like readers to know is that I am tall, white, and stereotypically pretty. I have benefitted from privilege in one way or another my entire life. However, I didn’t think I was beautiful most of my 24 years, and that is what society wants. They want you to feel ugly so they can sell you makeup, feel fat so they can sell you a diet, and feel undesirable so they can sell you a new outfit. None of those things has helped me love myself. Accepting who I am has come from words of affirmation, conversations with close friends, and feeling confident in comfortable clothing! If you are struggling with body dysmorphia, sometimes the hardest part can be realizing and accepting that there is a problem with how you view your body. However, once you acknowledge that you are worthy and so much more than just your physical appearance there is a whole community ready to welcome you! I’d like to finish with one of my favorite quotes; ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.-Ayla

Allysa: To The Girl I Once Was

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

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

“Dear Allysa,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabrina: My Journey To Self-Love

Story 6 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is Sabrina’s story, written in her own words:

“Today, I’m taking y’all on a journey. The journey of how little Sabrina went from an innocent girl who didn’t have a care in the world, to feeling the pressures of society and succumbing to her inner negative thoughts, and all the struggles and learnings she has gone through in the last 24 years of being in this body. So buckle up and hopefully, this story helps someone out there going through it feel less alone. 

Growing up, I always had a turbulent relationship with my body and eating habits. As a baby, I was pretty chubby, but was also a colic baby, meaning I was just a complete nightmare to be around. I would cry all the time and fuss about eating so much to the point that my mom would spend hours trying to get me to eat and had to feed me water with a spoon. I was really out here trying to dehydrate myself. Over the years, I continued to have problems with eating and would need to be force-fed by my parents. At that time, I had really poor eating habits and would waste all the lunches my parents would pack for me. 

This all changed though around the age of 8 when my body finally recognized how amazing food tasted and I started to inhale everything in my line of sight. My diet was super unhealthy at this point. I would prefer fast food instead of the home-cooked meals my parents made for me. After school, I would beg my parents to take me to McDonald’s, KFC, or Taco Bell. At McDonald’s, I would order 2 fish filet sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and maybe a diet soda to wash it down, which would all be demolished by me before we even got home. 

Around the age of 10, my family had moved to India where we ended up staying for two years during my middle school years. My school at the time offered meals on campus and it was buffet style. We would have so many options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks and no one to supervise us or tell us how much we can or can’t eat. This was literally my dream come true and I happily ate as much as I wanted and didn’t give a care in the world. 

However, soon enough, this safe bubble I was in popped. I distinctly remember a specific time when my family and I were in Goa, a beautiful beach city in India, for vacation. I was about 11 years old at the time and was starting to develop into my womanhood – aka grow boobs – and I had no idea what was going on with my body. I was playing in the ocean with my sister with our clothes on and my mom called me to come out of the water. She told me to cover myself or wear another shirt on top since my boobs were very visible under the wet shirt. I remember feeling so ashamed about this and immediately ran back to our hotel room and started crying. At this point, I didn’t even feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit because I knew my body was going through changes, and I felt so so self-conscious. I didn’t know this at the time but this was a significant turning point in how I viewed my body. I would continue to feel bad about my body for many years to come. 

As puberty hit me like a freight train, I continued to gain a lot more weight. By this time, we had moved back to California and I was starting high school. I was close to ~150 pounds being a 5’ 6” girl and my relationship with my body grew more turbulent. My doctor told me I was overweight and suggested that I exercise even though I was playing competitive sports at the time. I started comparing my body to other girls in my class and would feel so bad about myself. During track and tennis practice, I would always feel like I didn’t look as “athletic” or as “slim” as other girls in our sports uniforms. I remember hating my tennis uniform because it was a sleeveless top that made me conscious of my arm fat. I would feel bad about eating the bagels that my teammate’s parents would bring for tennis meets. I was envious of the other girls who ate whatever they wanted and their bodies still looked “skinny.” It seemed like they didn’t even have to try to look that way and here I was beating myself up about eating a bagel. 

I started to dread going to the pool or the beach because it meant that I had to wear a swimsuit. While other girls were wearing bikinis and feeling super comfortable in their bodies, I still couldn’t even bring myself to wear a one-piece without feeling fat & undesirable. Mainstream media made me feel like the ideal body type was to be skinny and have a flat stomach. I was not skinny nor did I have a flat stomach which made me feel like something was wrong with me, my body, and that I should be doing something to change my body. 

This feeling worsened every time I went to a family party and some uncle or aunty would comment on my body. “Oh Sabrina, you look like you gained weight,” or “Sabrina, you are looking better than last time. Looks like you have lost some weight.” These comments made me feel even more insecure, self-conscious, and made me feel like I had to look a certain way to be considered pretty and worthy. Word of advice to anyone who gets unwarranted comments like this from family or friends: fat shaming and skinny shaming is never okay, don’t let them get to your head. It says more about their own insecurities and way of thinking than anything else if the first thing they feel the need to comment on is someone’s physical appearance. It’s such a shallow way of looking at the world. 

Of course, I let their comments get to my head. Self-confidence was at an all-time low and my body dysmorphia led me down a very restrictive path. When I was a senior in high school, I decided enough was enough and I was done feeling bad about myself and my body. I decided to go on a very strict low-carb, high protein diet and exercised intensely every day for 45 minutes. I would have some cereal for breakfast, a salad for lunch (probably ~300 calories), maybe an orange (like a small ass cutie) as a snack, and would head to my part-time job after school.

During this time, I was strictly logging everything I ate on My Fitness Pal and was so anal about hitting my daily calorie, and macro count. My body was not getting the nutrition it needed and I started to slowly develop a binge eating disorder. I would have a very light calorie day at school, would go to work in the evening at the accounting firm I was interning at, and try to avoid looking at the table full of food that my coworkers brought. 

Eventually, I would succumb to my cravings – cause ya girl was basically starving herself during the day and was so hungry. I would take any food I could get my hands on, go down to the basement at work where I would usually file documents, and gorge myself. I would feel so ashamed for doing this that I would literally make sure no one was near me while I stuffed my face – like I haven’t had food in days. After I finished binge eating, I would usually feel so bad about myself and so physically uncomfortable. I remember one day when it was a particularly bad binge eating episode, I literally sat on the floor with food all around me and sobbed uncontrollably at work. There were days where I would go back home after these episodes and exercise to burn off some calories to make myself feel better. But this never made me feel better since I was 1) so bloated and uncomfortable 2) felt like I ruined all my progress for the day. This would usually end in me breaking down sobbing, feeling more guilt, and ashamed. I would look at my body in the mirror, hate what I saw, and to make myself feel better, I would binge eat again. 

This was a very silent struggle that I went through. My parents didn’t know that I was going through this because honestly, I was doing a pretty good job of hiding it. I would always binge either at work or late at night at home once my parents went to sleep. I would be so ashamed of how much I was eating that I would make sure to do it in secret. 

It took me a while to realize what was happening and what I was doing to myself. I knew that I was binge eating because of my restrictive diet, but I never made myself throw up after these episodes, so I never labeled it as an “eating disorder.” Boy was I wrong. One day, after a particularly bad binge eating episode, I googled “How do you know you have an eating disorder?” and “How do you recover from binge eating?” This sent me down a rabbit hole until I finally opened my eyes to my reality. If I continued down this path I knew this wouldn’t end well. I dealt with my eating disorder for almost 8 months and that was probably the lowest point in my body journey thus far. 

After months of this, I knew I couldn’t live like this any longer. I didn’t feel healthy or comfortable within my own body and I hated feeling so superficial about myself. I started to be honest with myself about what I was doing to my body and how destructive my mindset was. The summer before my freshman year of college was when I found the plant-based community and started watching documentaries like “Coswspiracy” and “Forks over knives” and read books like “The China Study” and “The Starch Solution” (highly recommend). I instantly gave up meat after bawling throughout those documentaries. I learned about the environmental impacts of the animal and dairy industry and realized I had to make a change. I also loved how in the plant-based community, there was a focus on eating nutritious whole foods and not restricting the number of calories you ate. I was vegan for the first 2 years of college, transitioned into vegetarianism after, and am currently trying to go vegan again. 

During this time, I also came across the concept of intuitive eating which is essentially eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Sounds easy enough right? But if you have ever struggled with an eating disorder or even followed any diet rules you know this isn’t so easy in practice. Since I had restricted certain foods and had binge-eating tendencies, my body was so out of touch with its natural hunger cues. Psychologically, I needed time to get over the diet culture mindset. It took me about 4 months to get to a point where I could stop counting calories and feel comfortable with eating whatever I wanted and however much I wanted. 

During this period, my focus changed from losing weight to listening to my body. I worked on shedding all of this conditioning I had about food, diet, and my ideal body. I was finally eating intuitively. What helped me during this time was to ditch the calorie-tracking apps and unfollowing any accounts that were promoting a certain body type.

In college, my body continued to go through many changes. I gained the infamous Freshman 15 (more like Freshman 25 in my case), and didn’t exercise consistently the first two years. That was the first time since my childhood where I felt liberated and unrestricted. I didn’t care as much about being a certain weight or looking a certain way, and I let myself eat freely without limits (with the only limit being that I was vegan but that didn’t stop me from finding the wonderful world of vegan junk food). 

Of course, this liberating feeling didn’t last long. I started to feel bad about all my weight gain and started beating myself up for letting it get this far. I would try to go to the gym to do cardio or a group class but never stayed consistent and felt demotivated by all the strength and stamina I had lost. The summer before my junior year, I discovered the weightlifting community and loved the focus on gaining strength & building muscle vs. losing weight and having a skinny figure. This was a huge mindset shift for me in how I viewed exercise. Prior to this, I always saw exercise as something I had to do to burn calories and lose weight. Weightlifting completely reframed that for me, and now I wanted to lift so that I could gain strength and see my progress. 

As I continued to weightlift throughout my junior year, I started eating more since I was hungry and wanted to gain muscle. I started to see how food is actually fuel that would help me get stronger and build muscles vs. something that I had to limit and keep track of. The last two years of college were probably the most comfortable and proud I felt of my body. I worked really hard to gain strength and shed past conditionings of restrictive eating. I felt like I finally arrived at a place where I could feel confident in my body and love what I saw when I looked in the mirror. 

Now, don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying I’m suddenly happy in my skin or that I never have destructive thoughts about my body. I still look at the mirror and focus on the “flabby” or “unflattering” parts. I still pinch the fat on my stomach, arms and back and wish it wasn’t there. I still have moments of low self-esteem. I still look at the mirror sometimes and am not happy with what I see. 

The media makes us believe that diet culture is so mainstream and that everyone needs to adhere to these strict ways of eating to look a certain way. It’s truly scary how ingrained this is in our culture, how often it is practiced and seen as normal. The staggering truth is that the diet industry is a $60 billion/ year industry. We are constantly being pitched something that makes us believe we need to lose weight – a fitness program, celebrities promoting weight loss pills, brands selling clothes that only fit a certain body type, etc. It’s hard to not fall into the trap of thinking that we need to change our bodies when all we see online is eurocentric beauty standards and a lack of representation. 

Since the pandemic started, my whole workout routine has completely gone out the window. Without a gym, I’ve been struggling to stay motivated to do at-home workouts. I have lost all the muscle mass I worked so hard to build in the last few years and have beaten myself up for not working out consistently. I have slipped back into feelings of low self-worth and have had moments where I’ve been critical of my body in the past year. Whenever I have these moments, I remind myself that this is MY body and the only body I will ever have. It’s a privilege to have this body and I have to honor and love it at all stages. I spend extra time on self-care and self-love practices that help me get out of that negative headspace and allow me to focus inward instead of outward. Taking time for gratitude has been essential and I thank my body for being my vessel on this earth and allowing me to have all these dope experiences. This has allowed me to be comfortable with accepting myself the way I am in this present moment. 

If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would hug her and tell her that she is beautiful and loved just the way she is. I would tell her that your weight doesn’t define your worth. Diet culture is a load of bullshit and you should never try to conform to something you see on the internet. Food is meant to be enjoyed and life is meant to be unrestrictive. I would tell her that criticizing your body for years hasn’t helped you at all so why don’t you try accepting yourself and see what happens. 

As a society, we are conditioned to think that we need to look a certain way to feel happy and confident in ourselves. The media feeds into this thinking and makes us feel like we’re less than and/or not beautiful just the way we are. If you’re reading this and have been through or currently going through something similar, just know you are amazing just the way you are, and fuck society’s nonsense. Don’t value your body over your being. No one can take that away from you and you have so much more power and agency than you realize. Everyone has body issues, even those you idolize. When you come to realize that everybody deals with body image issues in their own way – even the people you might consider as flawless – then you can start to accept yourself just the way you are. We are all different shapes, and sizes, and that’s what makes each one of us unique and this should be celebrated. There is no one else like you. We only have one life to live and one body so we must take care of our home & nourish it with love, kindness, and empathy. I want to share my story with others because I know I am not alone in how I feel about my body. We need to speak to one another and shed ourselves of the programming society has instilled in us. The more we do this the more we can feel liberated and closer to our truth.” -Sabrina

Alisa: The Insecurity Within

Story 3 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is Alisa’s story, written in her own words:

“I’m Alisa Nguyen-Le, and I’m a 4’11” half white, half Vietnamese cisgendered woman. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with insecurities around my short height, acne, and weight. To this day, I am working towards accepting and loving parts of myself that I once would grimace at. The journey of embracing body positivity and unlearning societal beauty standards is not easy, but to me, it’s crucial in order to live a truly fulfilling life. That is why this project spoke to me so much. 

Around the age of puberty, I started breaking out with severe acne and developed a hatred towards the way my face looked. From once being called pepperoni face to my family always commenting on my skin, I never wanted people to look at my face. Every time I would look in the mirror, all I could see was my pimples and my scars. Because of the insecurity of having acne, I started wearing makeup when I was in the eighth grade to cover up my blemishes. In high school, I would put on a full face of makeup every single day to make me feel more confident and mask my insecurities I was having. When I put on makeup, I felt like a different, more likeable person. It hurt to look at myself in the mirror, and it was impossible to tell myself that I was beautiful unless I had a full face of makeup on.

On top of that, growing up in a community that was predominantly Asian, I always wanted to look more like my Asian side to fit in. With makeup, I felt as if I could alter my looks to be more of the person I wanted to be. When I would look in the mirror, the voice in my head would criticize everything I saw including the paleness of my skin, my acne, my sparse brows, my small lips, and my baby face. After I started to take birth control in college, I began noticing that my skin was getting better. Despite my acne improving, I still felt a lingering insecurity inside of me. I started to realize that the way I felt about myself was internal and that I had the power to change the narrative in my head. When I started to feel “ugly”, I would tell myself that no two people in this world are exactly alike and to embrace the face that nature had given me. By making this a mindful practice in my life, I slowly started becoming more confident in going outside without makeup at all. Finally, I was finally able to tell myself I was beautiful naturally.

Despite my progress in accepting my natural face, I also started to notice my body shape changing after beginning to take birth control. I was gaining weight. In the past, I would be able to eat whatever I wanted without gaining any weight. I would eat a lot and enjoy every moment of it. However, this started to change dramatically, and I started to tell myself that I couldn’t eat the way I used to. I began to feel insecure about the way my body looked, especially when wearing a bathing suit. My thighs were getting thicker, and I started to gain more fat on my stomach. I started to label my arms as flabby and would suck in my stomach when taking photos. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt like I was in someone else’s body. At the time, I was with my now ex-boyfriend and genuinely feared he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore because of the way my body was changing. I would discreetly throw in comments to hopefully receive compliments and validation from him to help make me feel worthy enough. This was also when Instagram influencers started to become more prevalent, and I started developing a habit of comparing myself to more fit, pretty, and skinny girls I saw online. I started going to the gym more regularly, and though it made me feel better, I started to base my self worth on whether or not I gymmed.

To this day, I struggle with only wanting to wear one-piece bathing suits (if I have to wear one), not wanting to wear outfits that show my arms, and avoiding crop tops (even though I love the look) to avoid feeling embarrassed over what people can see behind the fabric. I have fears that folks from high school will see photos of how I look now and think, “wow, she’s thickened,” or “Alisa let herself go.” It’s tough when I look in the mirror, and I’ll think I look good, but when I see myself in photos from the same day, I feel repulsed at how “fat” I look. I’ll genuinely question, “is this really how other people see me?”. During January 2020 (right before the pandemic), I went on a trip to Hawaii. I hated almost every single photo of myself in my bathing suit. After this trip, I told myself that I wanted to make some significant changes in my life to lose weight. I wanted to gym more aggressively, and I wanted to change my diet. I had seen other people try a keto diet and saw that it worked for them, so I told myself that I wanted to give it a try too. Although I started somewhat strong, I quickly started developing my old habits of eating carbs (mind you, I’m a huge foodie and love all foods, so this was incredibly challenging for me). My failed diet made me feel like a failure as a person. 

When the pandemic hit, and gyms started closing, I honestly felt a bit of relief. Relief that I wouldn’t have the pressure of physically going to the gym. I also started to not feel as poorly about not sticking with my diet as my mind had shifted from being hyper-aware of how I looked to getting acclimated to “the new normal” of the pandemic. Although I always knew in the back of my mind that I had an unhealthy obsession with the gym, I never did anything about it. This changed dramatically during lockdown. After having no other choice but to sit down and reflect on what really mattered to me, I deprioritized my looks and shifted my focus to my health and the health of my loved ones. I also began to hear people talk about “quarantine weight,” which made me feel better knowing that other people were on their journeys. Now, my focus is to try to take care of my mind, body, and spirit. If I work out one night, then great. If I don’t, I try not to dwell on it. If I feel like eating something, I will try my best not to feel guilty about it. Of course, I’m a believer in “everything in moderation,” but I recognize it’s natural for things to become unbalanced from time to time. 

It’s a life-long process, and I wish I could say I’ve moved past this internal battle with myself. Because of this internal battle, there are times where I feel like my obsession with exercising manifested itself into an obsession with at-home workouts. There are also times when I fear that I will develop the same obsession I had with the gym pre-covid life. However, in those moments, I have to remind myself not to be too hard on myself. When I die, I know people won’t remember me for how I looked on Instagram photos, but rather who I am as a person and how I made others feel. When I do feel my insecure mindset starting to creep up, I try to remind myself to channel that energy onto uplifting affirmations instead. I tell myself that everyone is beautiful the way they are, and everyone is on their self-love journey. I tell myself that it’s okay if I don’t look like the model girls I see on Instagram. I tell myself that people love me unconditionally, regardless of how I look. I tell myself that I am beautiful, even if it’s hard to believe at the moment. I know the journey of self-love is difficult, painful, and sometimes almost impossible to endure. However, through resilience and strength, I have faith that everyone will be able to see their natural-born beauty and embrace who they are inside and out. As we live in a digital world, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in beauty standards from what we see on the screen. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that what we see online is curated and does not always reflect reality. However, social media isn’t always negative, and it gives me hope and inspiration to see more body-positive activists spread the message that everyone is beautiful in their own way. 

Although the “body positive” movement is often associated with advocating for bigger bodies in the media (which is absolutely necessary), I hope that one day, the stories of all body types will be shared. It’s important for all people to tell their story so our society becomes more understanding and empathetic of the people we surround ourselves with. For anyone else struggling with their body image, I want you to know that you are loved for who you are, regardless of what you look like. You are beautiful and unique. You are strong and will get through these challenges. If there is one thing that you take away from this story, please remember that you are not alone and we are in this together. You are one of a kind and there will never be someone exactly like you. Embrace it.”

-Alisa

Artistry By Dre

Andrea’s goal for 2020 was to be published in a magazine by year’s end. That goal was fulfilled this past November when her makeup look landed the front cover of PUMP Magazine. This is a huge accomplishment for Andrea and puts her freelance makeup business, Artistry By Dre‘s, name out there in the makeup artist world. Her love and passion for makeup is finally getting the recognition she once dreamed of. It took Andrea a lot of trial and error to get Artistry By Dre where it is today. She had a few bumps in the road, but has used those experiences to learn, grow, and perfect her craft. This is the story of how Andrea got her foot in the makeup industry.

Andrea has always looked up to her mother for many different reasons. Makeup is definitely one of those reasons. Her love for makeup originated from years of watching her mom getting ready. She would look at her mom with awe, and it inspired Andrea to test her creativity as well. She would do her makeup, then eagerly run to her mom’s room to show her what she created. This gave Andrea the confidence to start practicing on friends and family. She started offering makeup services when she was about 17 years old, roughly 8 years ago, her senior year of high school. People would come to her for proms, homecomings, and other special events.

From there, Andrea’s love for being a makeup artist grew. She decided to start her business because she was extremely passionate about creating new looks. She lived for her clients’ reactions when they would see themselves in the mirror after she was through. For these reasons, Andrea had little hesitation about starting Artistry By Dre, because at that point, she was already getting booked with makeup appointments. She started an Instagram page to showcase her work, and people were reaching out to book her for their events as well. It only seemed right that the next step would be to make the business official.

“I wasn’t hesitant at all, it honestly happened pretty organically,” Andrea said. “I knew I loved what I did, and I was invested in learning more about the industry.”

When Andrea decided to pursue makeup professionally, her mom supported her from day one. Her mom always tried to encourage her to try new looks, push her creativity, promote her work on social media, and be her number one fan. Although in the beginning, Andrea’s mom was a little worried at first because she thought pursuing makeup professionally meant that Andrea was going to stop with her college courses. After reassuring her mother that she would still be going to school and getting her degree, her mom was relieved and gave Andrea her full support. Andrea also had the support of her family, and didn’t receive any negative feedback. She knows she is fortunate that her family was so supportive, since it’s not so common for family members to be entirely on board when starting a small business. She believes her family was more inclined to support her dreams and business because she always had another job to be able to support herself and Artistry By Dre.

With her family’s support, Andrea was ready to totally immerse herself in the makeup industry. And with the help of her aunt, she got her first opportunity to do makeup for a bridal party when she was just 17 – 18 years old! Her aunt has a salon in South San Francisco, and had asked if she was available to do makeup for a bride and two of her bridesmaids. Andrea couldn’t believe it. Her excitement was through the roof, but she was equally just as nervous as she was excited. Especially since this was the bride’s big day, it added more pressure on Andrea to deliver. She didn’t want to mess up or have the bridal party not be happy with her service. When she finished the bridal party’s makeup, they were so happy with the end results. That day Andrea made the most money in 1 day of doing makeup. Their reactions energized her spirit to continue with her art and become a professional makeup artist.

For the next couple of years, Andrea continued to do makeup services for others and showcase her work through her Instagram page. Her dream has always been to be a MAC makeup artist, so when she finally had the opportunity to showcase her skills, she went for it. Unfortunately, her interview experience that day wasn’t a great one. The woman interviewing Andrea seemed very cold and uninterested in what she had to say. The entire interview Andrea felt as if her heart was in her stomach the entire time. She had a gut feeling that the interviewer wasn’t going to hire her, but she put on a professional face and attitude and got through her interview. A few days after her interview, she followed up with the manager to get an answer or any feedback on how the interview went. The manager told Andrea that the person interviewing her that day had said she, “had the MAC look and artistry, but not the personality.”

“When I heard that, I felt like a dagger hit me in the chest,” Andrea said remembering the only time she ever felt discouraged as a makeup artist. “My dream of being a MAC makeup artist wasn’t in the cards for me. This didn’t discourage me from continuing to pursue makeup. In fact, I used that as a fuel to become a better artist. I realized that I didn’t need to work at MAC to be a great makeup artist. I already had the artistry and skills they had.”

Sometimes, it takes closing the door on one chapter of your life to continue on to the next. Andrea realized that after she left her retail job almost 4 years ago. Quitting her job at Nordstrom was one of the best decisions she made for her makeup career. At her retail job, she wasn’t allowed to take personal makeup appointments. But when she did have an appointment at her counter, the customer would have to buy products, and the makeup artists couldn’t accept tips or money for their service. This was extremely discouraging for her as a makeup artist. She felt as though everything was focused on selling, and that wasn’t the route she wanted to go with her makeup career. So, she interviewed at Makeup Forever as a freelancer and got the job on the spot. She put in her two weeks at Nordstrom and felt from that moment on, she chose herself. She was finally able to have a flexible schedule and work for Makeup Forever and for herself whenever she wanted.

Working as a freelance artist for Makeup Forever lasted for about 8 months, but eventually, Andrea moved on. Her current job allows her to have weekends completely free to do makeup. Sometimes, she will even pick up clients after work if she has the availability. She finally found a schedule that aligns with her needs and wants. After quitting her retail job is when she really started to take Artistry By Dre more seriously. Andrea started researching the next steps on how to become a certified makeup artist, purchased quality products for her kit, watched videos and took classes to learn different techniques, built a website, and made business cards to give out. Andrea was finally able to fully focus on Artistry By Dre and network with others.

Networking with others meant that she had to be more consistent with posting content on Artistry By Dre‘s Instagram page. She made her business Instagram page back in 2014 to showcase her work and services. However, she did her first paid advertisement about 2.5 years ago when Instagram introduced the business feature. To test it out, Andrea paid for the option that wasn’t too expensive, but would showcase and advertise her work to about 7 thousand people for a span of 5 days. Her page got a lot of engagement from that ad, about 1.2 likes and 200 followers. Running the ads has proven to be a successful tool to bring in followers, makeup lovers, and potential clients. Most importantly, the exposure leads her to collaborate with other creatives.

With Andrea fully focused on her business, and her posts making its way around the internet, Artistry By Dre started to take off. With all of her research, practice, and training, Andrea was confident in her artistic ability. When you become your own boss, it’s easy to lowball yourself, or have others try to lowball your services. Andrea found this especially true when she started freelancing. It surprised her that many people try to negotiate prices. What she, and many other makeup artists, want the public to understand is a lot of time and money goes into being a professional makeup artist. They take classes to learn different techniques, they purchase makeup and proper sanitation products, not to mention the costs of keeping their websites running, upkeeping their kits, traveling to your destination, or renting out a studio or booth, etc. These expenses are usually “out of sight, out of mind,” to others. Andrea admits that she used to get bothered when people would try to negotiate her prices, but she learned to remind herself that her work is worth the price for the quality of work she offers and her skillset.

“When people try to negotiate my prices, I explain why I set my prices to what it is, and if I’m not in their budget that’s okay, but my prices are non-negotiable,” She explained. “I stopped getting upset and told myself that my work is worth the price and there are people out there that will appreciate my artistry.”

And there definitely are plenty of people that appreciate Artistry By Dre‘s services. She is the busiest around proms, homecomings, graduations, and wedding season which is summer – mid-fall. It slows down after, then picks back up again around the holidays. But because of COVID, Artistry By Dre was definitely impacted. Because of the lockdown and mandatory Shelter in Place orders, she lost many wedding appointments and other special occasion jobs. For the first couple of months of Shelter in Place, Andrea felt as if her business was at a standstill. She decided not to take any clients until the re-opening in mid-June. But still, Andrea was hesitant to open up her services again because of how close she gets to someone’s face when she does their makeup. To reassure herself and her clients, she took extra safety and sanitary precautions by receiving a Barbicide COVID-19 Certification – an online course teaching infection control in salons, spas, barbershops, etc.

Ironically, despite the pandemic, Artistry By Dre has been getting booked to do more photoshoots and collaborations. For every photoshoot she does, she is exposing herself to more opportunities to meet photographers, models, stylists, and other people in her field. In fact, networking and collaborating is what led to her first magazine publication. She had just finished a photoshoot when she started talking to one of the models. They talked about their goals for their business, and Andrea shared with her that she really wanted to do more print work and be published. She referred Andrea to Alex, the model that would be on the cover of the magazine. Alex asked if Andrea would like to be a part of the project, and now Andrea has a published magazine to show for it.

“I could not believe that I was finally getting the opportunity that I have been asking the Universe and God for,” Andrea said looking back on her greatest accomplishment of 2020. “I told myself that this was the first of many big opportunities and it was time to grow in my artistry and push myself out of my comfort zone.”

And this was definitely out of her comfort zone. When Andrea first started doing photoshoots, she was a little hesitant to meet up with photographers and models she didn’t know. Just for that alone – the fact that she didn’t know these people personally. In the beginning, Andrea would bring her cousin along to shoots and sessions, to be sure that she had somebody she knew and trusted near by. Now a days, Andrea shares her location and the details of where she’ll be with her boyfriend, mom, and cousins when she is with a new photographer, model, or collaborating team. She shares her location with them on her phone, so if she’s at a new location, they know to hit her up. She makes it a point to call and text them after she is done with a shoot so they know that she’s safe and okay.

These collaborations and photoshoots have opened a lot of opportunities for Andrea and Artistry By Dre. The photoshoots she does are mainly to build portfolios for those involved – the models, the photographer, the stylist, hairstylist, and makeup artist. Other times, they shoot for product launches and content creation. Not only does she get to build her own portfolio, have new content to post on social media, and be around other creatives – she also gets to make new connections and network with those in her industry. When a creative wants to collaborate, one person will reach out to those they want involved. If Andrea wanted to plan a photoshoot, she would be in charge of the location, reaching out to photographers, models, stylists, and hairstylists, and explain the mood board. When she plans the shoot, she is in complete control of what the mood and vibe will be. When someone else is planning the shoot and they ask her to collaborate, it is her job to make their makeup vision come to life on the model. Photoshoots gives her a chance to be creative and push boundaries as an artist.

“I try to do 3-4 collabs each month so I can have photos to post on my social media, but also stay up on the latest trends and challenge myself to try new techniques and makeup styles,” She said.

When Andrea isn’t part of a photoshoot, she tries to find different ways to keep creating. She follows a lot of makeup artists on social media to use as inspiration. She uses her Pinterest account to create mood boards for future looks and projects. Andrea admits that when she is playing around with makeup on herself, she rarely knows what look she will end up with. She lets her brushes do the work, and doesn’t restrict herself from experimenting with different colors. Usually, she knows what color palette she will be using, but then end result is always a mystery. Even if she pulls images to recreate and use for inspiration, she always tries to add her own creative spin to the look. Andrea likes to look at her past makeup looks to see how far she’s come. If she ever tries to recreate a look she has done in the past to see her progress, the look always turns out differently than the original because she remembers what she struggled with when doing that look. She will try different techniques that she has learned since then to try to approach the look differently.

Andrea’s goal for Artistry By Dre in 2021 is to build on all the success and accomplishments she made in 2020. She wants to really invest in her business by upgrading her website, do more content creation, adding more to her current services, and doing more production work like commercials and campaigns. Andrea already got a head start in expanding her services before 2020 ended. She surprised herself when she started offering press-on nails. When COVID hit, her nail tech moved away, so she started doing her own nails. People started messaging her about them, so she created a poll asking if people would be interested in buying. Overall, she got a pretty positive response and decided to roll with it. She doesn’t know how long she will offer her press-on nails, but she’s going with the flow and doesn’t plan on discontinuing them anytime soon.

Andrea knows that everything she wants will come with time. As for right now, she is enjoying the full time job she has that allows her to continue with Artistry By Dre, and plans to keep her makeup business her side hustle. She will transition Artistry By Dre to full time when she adds services that will bring in consistent clients. Having her own studio is something she is already putting out into the universe. She already offers classes for those who want to learn how to apply makeup, but dreams to one day open up her own school. She dreams of one day opening a makeup school where she teaches not only makeup artists, but people who want to learn to do their own makeup as well. Andrea knows that it will take time and will be an investment, but she knows that’s a top goal of hers.

Andrea started off as a self-taught makeup artist. She takes so much pride in what she does and wants her customers to know that when she’s working with them, she listens and caters to their beauty needs because she wants them to feel their most beautiful and confident self. Her goal is to have all her clients have full confidence in her ability to deliver exactly what they want, and exceed their expectations. Artistry By Dre would not be where it is today if Andrea never put her work out there. Her advice to other artists is to not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your work out there, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to other artists. Andrea describes the makeup industry as very competitive. She thinks it’s very important to be kind to others and keep it professional. There will always be other makeup artists who support you, and unfortunately, there will be others that want you to fail.

“I want to promote women empowerment and to keep hustling and manifesting your goals into reality,” Andrea said.

And she’s doing just that. One of Andrea’s favorite makeup stories to tell is when a friend of hers, who is a couple years younger, reached out to her to interview her for an assignment. Her friend was in makeup school and the assignment was to interview an experienced makeup artist. Her friend revealed to her that she was the reason why she chose to pursue makeup. Andrea had no idea she was inspiring others with her work. She felt so honored to be that mentor for someone else. You never know who you’re going to inspire with your work.

“My message to those that have supported me along my journey is thank you all for the encouragement, every referral they have sent my way, and the overall love I have received,” Andrea said. “Each interaction has uplifted me and shaped me into the makeup artist I am now, and I’m super grateful for it all.”

I Used To Care

It’s clear to anyone that has followed my writing – I love to dissect social media and its effects on people’s lives, relationships, self esteem, and everything inbetween.

When I got to San Francisco State University, it seemed like that’s what all my articles gravitated to. I loved to write about social media and get people’s thoughts, wondering if I was the only one who had mixed feelings towards it. Of course, I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling the way I felt, but it was amazing to see the spectrum of how it affected people. It’s like a love hate relationship, and it only seemed appropriate that I was Social Media Editor. I wanted to unravel the mystery of social media – something that is meant to be fun and leisurely, but somehow can take a drastic turn for the worse.

I’ve always gave it a lot of thought – how my generation grew up on social media. We were there through the birth and infancy of social media presence. I was too young for Friendster and all that, but my first online presence was my Aim and MySpace in 5th grade. And at the time, that shit was life changing. I felt so out of the loop not having ways to connect with friends other than the landline home telephone. Social media opened a whole new world of feeling in the loop, feeling included, and staying connected. And as a kid, you want to feel those bonds with your friend group. I made the profiles not even thinking twice of what this would mean. I’ve basically been posting things since I was 10.

Very often I wonder what life would be like if these platforms never existed, how different everything would be. I think to the kids that are born now, or even my future kids, how different their lives will be. We evolved with social media and technology, and they will be coming into a world where having a cellphone and social media is the norm. By the time my kids are teenagers, technology will be crazy good at probably a decent price. It’s cool, but it’s also terrifying. I see how dependent some kids and adults can be on their phones / tablets / laptops. I’ve even voiced how I would try to withhold my phone from my future children as long as possible. Of course, I say that now and can’t speak for the future. But it’s crazy to know that even if I do withold technology from my kids for the first couple years of their lives, it can possibly put them at a disadvantage in the future. Their world will be so heavily technology based that they’ll be seen as the weirdos if they don’t know how to work a touch screen by the age of 5.

Growing up with social media has always been normal to my generation. I thought it was cool – staying connected and seeing people’s lives and hobbies. It was strangely addicting. I loved to post, I loved to update my profiles, I loved taking pictures, and I was most definitely that bitch that would post what I was feeling or some emo song quotes for my “away message” on Aim. I could get the latest drama by reading comments, posts, and see who was on who’s side just by seeing who liked the post. It was crazy. Drama is ridiculous as it is. But when you have people that like to make their drama public in the heat of the moment, you have people like me reading the comment section eating my mental popcorn, having me on my toes, refreshing that shit for replies or indirectly “at-ing” someone. Growing up, drama wasn’t just drama anymore. You had to know all of the story – not only what started the drama, but what was said online.

I don’t know when the transition happened, but suddenly social media went from all light heart fun and sharing, to putting up a front. And I didn’t like that. I noticed the need to look a certain way if I posted something, or dwell on the “perfect caption.” But I didn’t really start asking myself why I felt this way until I was about 21 / 22 years old. I started becoming aware of the root to why I wanted to post things, and sometimes my reasoning didn’t sit well with me. I realized there was a lot of healing that needed to be done internally. But I still kind’ve ignored it. I was aware, but I didn’t want to make the effort to change it. It is what it is, and everyone feels this way anyways.

Instagram was my favorite form of social media. I would spend forever trying to find the perfect picture in the series of photos. Because everyone knows you can never just take 1 picture. A good photographer knows you need to take a bunch from different angles, a slight tilt of the head could change a photo drastically lol. I was always concerned about how I looked in the picture. Did I look pretty? Fat? Was my outfit cute? How’s my pose? Should I put a filter on it? Now what caption? These are all questions that I would consider when posting. It got exhausting. It went from wanting to post a picture because I liked it, to spending over an hour over analyzing everything to the point where I didn’t even want to post it anymore.

When I really asked myself why I felt the need to post or what drove me to post, it made me feel worse about myself. As pathetic as it sounds, getting “likes” made me feel important. It made me feel good about myself. Friends would comment nice things and give compliments, and it would boost my self-esteem. I had friends complimenting me on my appearance at a time where I wasn’t feeling confident about myself at all. In fact, 17 – 22 years old was when my body image of myself was probably at the lowest. But no matter how many compliments I would get from others, it didn’t change how I viewed myself. Social media was my outlet, it gave me instant gratification with every “like” that I would get. And sometimes that meant feeling bad when a picture didn’t get as much likes as I thought it would. It was all a game, and I was the loser in every scenario.

I was faking confidence, and it was a horrible feeling. I found myself trying not to be photographed in the same outfit if it already appeared on my profile. I only wanted to look nice for the sake of the picture, as if that was the only thing driving me to be a “bad bitch.” I wanted it to look like I was thriving in everything I was doing, I wanted to look interesting, I wanted it to seem like I was pretty all the time. I felt as though I had to uphold an image of myself that wasn’t even realistic or true. It didn’t mirror my real life, it didn’t show how I really felt, and I was using social media for the wrong reasons. In real life I’m goofy as fuck and 95% of the time I’m have no makeup. I prefer to be in leggings and a men’s L t-shirt. That side of me wasn’t being captured. I would stalk my own page and try to imagine what a stranger would think if they fumbled upon my page. Were my depictions accurate?

I didn’t want to get validation from social media and “likes.” I didn’t want to put up a façade anymore. I knew what was motivating me to post. So I knew I had to work on it. I didn’t want to ignore my why anymore. I was over it, I needed change, I needed to fix myself from the inside out. I saw how vain I was getting, and I hated it. This was not me. When did I start to care so much? I didn’t want to care anymore. It took way too much effort, and I wasn’t even doing it for the right reasons. And at the end of the day all I could think of was: Who even cares? We make social media a big part of our lives, we give it so much control over how we feel about ourselves… but when you really think about it … who even cares? Everyone is so wrapped up in their own head, caring about themselves and how they look, they could give a fuck about what I’m doing. Social media makes you feel connected with others, but at the end if it all, you’re just stuck with yourself, feeling even more isolated, and trapped in your head.

So, I fell off a little bit. I was still posting like once a month, but not as much as I used to. I focused on school and finishing up my degree. Honestly, my Women Gender Studies’ classes is what helped me heal a lot as well. It showed me that I wasn’t alone. It backed up my feminist beliefs and made me feel more secure and confident in myself. I had to learn the hard way that true confidence comes from you and your mentality, not from other people complimenting you. A little break is what I needed. And it’s very common now a days for people to have a social media cleansing and get off of it for a while. Sometimes people can come back to social media and use what they realized on their time off to set boundaries with themselves, but there are other times they realize they’re better off without it and never return. Both are respectable. Whatever brings you peace of mind.

I debated a long time whether to make a separate Instagram for my writing. I didn’t know if I wanted to mix my personal life and writing life together. I didn’t want to post so much on my personal Instagram and annoy people. But after much thought, I said fuck it. I am a writer, and a lot of my writing has to do with my personal life anyways. Anybody that doesn’t like it, can unfollow me. I didn’t care anymore about how much I posted, how many likes I got, and how I looked. I just wanted to push my work out and have people read it. Suddenly, I wasn’t posting for likes and validation anymore. I was posting to share my content and tell stories where people don’t feel alone. For years I tried to show parts of my life that only showed me in a positive light. But now here I am spilling the tea on myself and all my flaws, my low points, and insecurities. Being real and honest was the real glow up for me.

I don’t really care about my appearance like I used to. I used to trip out on how I looked if I was going out. I cared about who saw me, what people would think, and how I was presented. Nowadays, I could really give not a single fuck. It’s actually concerning sometimes because I think to myself, am I really that secure in myself that I don’t care, or am I depressed and don’t even wanna put it effort anymore that I don’t care? Or… possibly a mixture of both? All I know is I really don’t care about social media and appearance like I used to. I found peace in knowing that being a try hard is not a good look and I was using social media for the wrong reasons. Nowadays I find my posts getting a small amount of likes compared to back in the day. And back in the day I would get insecure about the number that appeared at the bottom of my picture. Now, I post because I want to, not because I’m feeling low and want some instant gratification. But it took a long time for me to get to this point, and I’m not knocking anyone that is still at that stage. I was you.

Not caring is what made me enjoy social media again. I used to care about what picture I added to my feed. It had to be “Instagram” worthy. Now I’m out here telling the world my greatest insecurities, thoughts, and stories. I used to care, but now I don’t, and that’s what set me free.

My Weight Gain Journey

Yes, you read that title right.

You always hear and read about people’s weight loss journey, but rarely about someone’s weight gain journey.

This is something I wanted to write about for a while, but never had the guts to do it. Probably in fear of getting negative comments, fear of getting too personal so publically, mixed with not being ready to share my story when I was still in the evolving process (still am, to be honest). But now, I speak my truth. I don’t expect people to understand my journey, and I know there will be a handful of readers that will disagree with me. But I’m not here to please everyone. You don’t have to agree with me.

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it reaches someone who is struggling with the same thing I spent my whole life struggling with. That self-love journey is the most intense thing to struggle with, especially since it’s all from within. It took me years to cleanse my mind of all the toxic Eurocentric beauty standards that I learned throughout my whole life. To unlearn all the negative thoughts people have and associate with my body type was in itself a journey. But most of all, training my brain to not speak and think negative things about myself was hard mentally. This is my story. This is how my weight gain journey saved my life.

I’ve always thought in my head how outsiders who don’t know me at all see my weight gain journey. Because let’s be real, it’s completely obvious. When explaining this blog post to close friends, I said, “You know, to outsiders who haven’t seen me since high school / early community college, they probably see me in person or on social media and think ‘Daaaamnnnn, she got hellllaaaa bigggggg!’ – thinking ‘what a shame,’ ‘damn, she let herself go!’ But if only they knew what I went through back in the day, and how unhealthy and toxic it all was. Gaining weight and “getting helllllla bigggg” is the result of what I like to dramatically label as my enlightenment.

🎶 Let me take y’all back, maaaaaan! As I do soooo wellllll! 🎶 *J.Cole voice*

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight and body dysmorphia. I was always the chubby little girl growing up. I’ve literally been big since birth. My mom takes pride in the fact that I was 8 and something pounds and she pushed my big ass straight out the womb naturally. Honestly, she deserves all the boasting rights, she delivered all 3 of us naturally and won’t let us forget it! So since birth I’ve been labeled as the big baby.

You know how kids go through a chubby phase and grow out of it? Uh, yeah, I just never grew out of it. The words of adults when you’re that young really absorb in your brain quickly. Around age 4-5, you start being more aware of yourself as a person and that’s when insecurities start to form. I’ve studied that when once upon a time I was an Early Childhood Development major, and I see it now working with children ages 1.5 – 5 years old. I was always being told by family that I was big and “to be careful.” It all stems from a good place, but the execution was sooo lame.

At age 6-7 I was writing in my diary how I need to lose weight. It was during the summertime, so I was stuck at home and obviously feeling mad insecure. I remember writing down a list of things I was going to “STOP EATING! NO MORE!” I jotted down all the foods I was going to avoid for my “diet.” Just the thought of it stressed me out (bruh, at 7), not even a couple hours later, I opened up my diary and crossed out my whole list. It’s crazy that diet culture starts that young.

I got the nickname “Good Life” from my uncle. The joke was since I was big, I must be eating good all the time and have the “Good Life.” I turned red with embarrassment as all the family laughed at my new found nickname. “Its ok!” They all urged. They explained that my older cousin was the previous “Good Life,” she grew out of it, so years later, now I’m the new one. I remember trying to laugh about it too. “Join in the joke so they don’t know you’re actually about to cry,” I would think to myself. But everytime I would be called that, it would be like a full-body cringe, I would freeze up, and I could feel my face getting flushed with pure uncomfortableness. I remember always wanting to angry cry, but it took all of me to hold it in because I knew I’d get in trouble for taking it too seriously.

I think that’s why I became the tomboy. I wanted to be tough, act tough, and be Buttercup in every way possible. Shitty weight comments is what made me grow a thick skin. But even though I was a little tough kid and acted like those comments didn’t phase me, somewhere deep deep down on the inside I was a delicate little flower who struggled with body image issues. I checked my weight on our shitty bathroom scale often and wished I saw something lower everytime. This time frame I’m talking about Kindergarten to 4th -ish grade y’all.

And by 4th grade I had already developed and was most definitely bigger than 96% of the boys in my grade! So at this point, I have family in my ear talking about how big I am, but I also had classmates tell me I’m fat, I could break a chair, and overall just feeling shitty about myself. All of a sudden I had boobs, and I was bigger than everyone else, it was just an awkward time.

Hearing shitty comments that young made me decide early on how I’m not going to talk to my child, or any child for that matter. I’m a ruthless individual if I’m feeling catty. I can destroy someone’s selfworth with just a single sentence. It’s truly a blessing and a curse all at once. I’ve been bullied and I’ve been the bully. It’s all a cycle. Hurtful things have been said to me about my outward appearance, and at times I was the one saying hurtful things. We learn and pick up actions and mannerisms from the environment we grow up in. So since I know first hand what it’s like to be 5 to 10 years old, and being teased about my weight, I know now that I will never be that adult in some kid’s life.

Fast forward to middle school, I’m talking 6th-8th grade. That age group alone is a difficult time in your life already – trying to fit in, find your crew, and maneuver through the childish drama and teenage beef. On top of that you think you’re grown and you’re trying to get noticed by your crush and get chose. I’ve always been stuck in the frendzone hahah. I look back now and it’s funny and cringy as fuck, but back then that shit was tragic. I really felt like I was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of my friend group. They were all having their first puppy love romances, and I was always just the bro. It made me think there was something weird about me, that nobody saw me past being a bro. Again, this shit is so cringe and minuscle to me now, but back then I was like damn, what the hell am I gross or something? Little did I know that those feelings in early teenage years are completely normal.

Puberty and all that shit really gets to you. Your hormones are all out of whack, popularity and fitting in seems to be the most important thing in your world, and you’re stuck comparing yourself to others. This is around the same time where Myspace was all that and a bag of chips, and Facebook was right around the corner. Peers were starting to get into makeup and beauty products – on the weekends only – since I attended a Catholic school that prohibited makeup, nailpolish, even ankle socks. HAHAHA.

But the benefit of being in a private school was the fact that I didn’t have to wake up everyday and stress over what to wear. Of course, I didn’t see it as a benefit then, but when I think about it now, it took a lot of pressure off of looking a certain way every day. There was a set uniform. Yeah, they weren’t fashionable or cute, but it didn’t matter what my appearance looked like because everyone had to wear the same thing. There were rare days out of the year where we had “Free Dress” days, meaning we could go to school in our regular clothes. These days were a big deal and an opportunity to show your style. I remember being on Aim (damn, I feel old) chatting with my friends the night before free dress days.

“What are you gonna wear tomorrow?”

“With what shoes?”

“Want to try to match?”

“Well do you have a shirt this color too?”

“Bring your camera so we can take pictures!”

I would also keep a mental note of my scars on my left arm. I almost never wore just a short sleeve shirt because I wanted to cover them. The stares, the questions, the disgusted faces people would make when they ask if they could touch it. I would rarely take off my school sweater, and would only take it off if I was legit sweating so much that it was unbearable. And even then I’d use my sweater to cover up my stomach. All these little steps I would take in the name of insecurities was ridiculous.

But the insecurities only amplified as I got to high school. Freshman year I kind of started thinning out because I had P.E. everyday, something I was not used to at all. Previously in my private school we had P.E. classes once a week, so you can only imagine how shook I was that I had to do this shit Monday to Friday. And when the teacher had to weigh us and shouted our weight out loud so the person writing it down could hear… bruh. As you can guess, I absolutely dreaded swimiming class. Changing infront of my peers? THINK AGAIN, I HUSTLED MY ASS OUT OF THE POOL EVERY DAY TO BE THE FIRST ONE OUT TO SHOWER FIRST AND RESERVE A PRIVATE STALL TO CHANGE IN. YOU THOUGHHHHT 💅🏽

But listen, this is where I wanted to start my story, but I felt like I had to give a little backstory of how this instance amplified what I already was struggling with all my life.

My junior year in high school, the guy I was in a relationship with for about a year moved away permanently. We decided to do long distance. Doing long distance at 17 and having it be in another whole ass country – let me tell you, 10/10 would not recommend.

It was such a toxic relationship. We both feared that the other would cheat, so I coped with it by stalking the shit out of Facebook to get my answers when I felt like I was being lied to. He coped with it by verbally abusing me and making my self-esteem so low that I wouldn’t even have the confidence to find someone else. This is part of the reason why I took so long to share this story. I didn’t want to write this in a way that focused on my ex being the bad guy. But more so, how this experience just stacked on top of all the past insecurities I had since a child. This is just 1 layer of the onion.

Anyways, we were “together” for 3-ish years on and off. 2 of those years were long distance without seeing each other physically in person. And in those 2 years of long distance, I truly experienced my lowest moments. It really felt like a test of my sanity sometimes. I was insecure as it is, and on top of that I had a “boyfriend” in another whole ass country that sometimes went M.I.A. for days. My gut feeling was telling me I was getting cheated on. So I would take to social media to try to find evidence. It was exhausting. Knowing you know the truth but can’t find the evidence to back it up. We fought almost everyday, I went to sleep crying daily, and we would break up to make up constantly.

I was stalking all these new found Facebook friends of his, and why it seemed like all of them were hot as hell with perfect bodies. If those were the kind of girls he was around daily, why would he need me? Now I see why he spoke bad about my appearance all the time, look what I’m up against…

“You should be happy a guy like me even gave you a chance.”

“Fat bitch.”

“Who would even want to fuck you?”

“Look at me, now look at you. I could get someone so much hotter.”

“You can’t get someone better than me.”

“Even my aunt said you’re fat.”

“If I was there I’d beat the shit out of you.”

“Some girls in my class saw on FB that we’re in a relationship and they were like, ‘that’s your girlfriend?!’ ”

All the while trying to flip the script and say that I must be cheating and xyz. I never cheated. Stayed faithful the whole way even though I knew it was a toxic, tumultuous, mind fucking mess. He later admitted that he did cheat on me after we broke up, which made me hate myself for not listening to my gut feeling. THAT SHIT BE THE TRUTH, PEOPLE! THAT’S YOUR BODY’S WAY OF SAYIN, YO, SOMETHING REALLY AIN’T RIGHT.

My senior prom was coming up and he had planned to attend. At this point we were almost a year and a half into long distance. I haven’t seen him in so long. I wanted to prove a point that I wasn’t the same fat bitch he had last seen in person 1.5 years prior. Prom was in April, so in January 2013 I started to diet. Also known as: starve myself.

I would eat just a handful of cheerios in milk for breakfast, I’d take a heatable “green giant” frozen pack for lunch. This said “lunch” was 30 or 50 calories (I forget) of frozen broccoli in “cheese.” That shit tasted like water. And for dinner I’d eat at home, but not as much as I would usually eat. And you know what? It started working. I started to slim down – and fast. But pretty often I’d feel depressed and binge out on a big hot cheeto bag. However, my binging didn’t out weigh the times I was hungry.

I boasted about how I’m trying to look good for prom. I took pride in the fact that I was starving myself but seeing results. People told me I looked good, they congratulated me on my weight loss. My confidence went up, even though I knew it was such an unhealthy way of living. But I didn’t care.

For once in my life I wasn’t the fat bitch. For once I could back up my comebacks that “no, you should feel lucky that I’m with you.” I valued what I saw in the mirror. The size on the back of my tags justified my worth. And for once it was “where I wanted to be.” For the first time in my life, I had confidence in myself. And if you would’ve told me what I was doing was unhealthy and wrong, I probably would’ve justified my actions.

And if you were to tell me that I picked up an eating disorder over a guy that was totally undoubtedly cheating on me, I probably would deny it. But that’s what it was. An eating disorder. And my peers and people around me had the same mindset as me- that it wasn’t that big of a deal. I planned to stop once prom was over, but I was getting used to it. Maybe I could continue after as well? Just until I get to “where I want to be.”

And what’s crazy is even at my skinniest, I still nitpicked at different parts of my body. Yes, I was getting smaller, but I wasn’t perfect. To me, there was always something else that could look better. It took my body dysmorphia to a whole new level. The sad reality was that I could lose as much weight as I wanted, but the self-hate I had towards myself would always tell me that I should lose more.

I did this process of starving and barely eating for about 3-ish months. Until I got the news that my ex wouldn’t be coming to my prom. I was so depressed that I started eating everything and anything. “What’s the point of this anymore,” I thought to myself. I was doing this to prove something to a particular person, and since he wasn’t coming anymore, why bother?

Around the same time is when I had to walk the runway for my sister’s first fashion show. It was a week or 2 after prom, so in my head, the weight loss wasn’t completely for nothing. Like I said in my previous post, I was so insecure during the first show because all the other “models” were actually models. They were all thin, fair skin, tall, and nothing like me. Even with my weight loss, I was still probably the biggest “model” there.

After some time, I gained back the weight I had originally lost. I was now in my first semester of community college. Some of my friends were juicing for weeks on end, and losing a lot of weight doing it. I somehow got convinced to try it. I told my ex I was going to try juicing for a week, low key hoping for a, “you’re beautiful the way you are,” type of comment. Bruh, he got so excited and happy and encouraged me to do it.

I lasted what, 2 or 3 days with juicing? Im not gonna lie I really felt like I was dying 💀. I felt so weak and hungry. I lost a couple pounds but that shit came right back once I started eating real food. Let’s just say I was a lost soul. Stuck in a shitty toxic relationship thinking my appearance would somehow ease my pain.

Finally, during my 2nd semester of community college, I finally ended things with my ex. It was such a breath of fresh air. I really felt like I could do anything and everything in life. I found my motivation to do better, by dropping the dead weight that was holding me back. It was 3 years too long. Nobody should have to go through abuse like that. Physical or not, verbal abuse is real and really fucks with your head.

At the time I was pursuing Early Childhood Education, so I got a child care job at a gym. I was so embarrassed when I first started working there because it was the most ironic thing for me to be working at a gym. Of all places. Hahahah. I took advantage of my free membership and would workout a couple times a week. I felt like I low key had to put in an effort since I was so out of place. I wasn’t a trainer, a body builder, shit I wasn’t even a member.

But it was kind’ve a lot of pressure to work at a gym, especially hearing what Male coworkers would say about people walking by the front desk. Honestly disgusting. I thought, shit, if you’re talking all that smack about someone you don’t know, I can only imagine what you say about me when I’m not around. Because I clearly wasn’t a fitness freak, and a lot of my coworkers were. I would get workout sessions from Jazzie for free since she was a trainer. It was off the clock for her, and I bitched every step of the way.

I really feel like I got this ironic job just so my path would cross Christian’s. He was my coworker that turned into my man real quick. It was so different being with a nice guy. It was actually weird to me. I didn’t know how to act. Even though I was single for a year, I felt like I had PTSD from my last relationship. I didn’t feel like I had to hide how I really am with Christian. For instance, I ate around him. This is something that I couldn’t do before. I would act like I was full because I didn’t want my ex to think I was a fatass. With Christian from the get, I’ll eat all mine and pick at his while I’m at it. The real me, cuz ya girl can eat.

As our relationship progressed, I added that happy weight, and birth control pills didn’t help this area either 🤦🏻‍♀️. But I have a guy that loves me regardless how big or small I get. But I still struggled. I struggled a lot. I hated the person I was. I hated how insecure I was. I hated that I was getting fatter and loved to eat. I hated that I was probably 35 lbs heavier since high school. I hated the way I looked, the body I’m in, the way I strived for the perfect hour glass figure. I hated that I was getting stretch marks. I hated that it was so obvious that I gained weight. But most importantly I hated that I hated myself.

At the end of my first semester at SF State I had a low key mental breakdown that lead to my rebirth. Transfering to SF State was lit. I spent 3 years in community college and finally felt like I was making progress with my life transfering to a 4 year university. SF State has a Quickly’s, a Phó, an Indian spot, pizza, ramen, Ike’s, Mexican food…. you get the point – I never went hungry. My first semester I had a weird schedule. Some early morning classes here and there, afternoon classes, even a night class that got out at 10 pm. I had to eat at school because I was basically there all day.

I remember this day vividly. I was waiting for my 7 pm class and had a gap. I got some Phó from campus and a boba drink, I ate in the cafeteria. It wasn’t too crowded. It was about 6:35 pm, and I finished my Phó, it was dark outside already. I was full as fuck. I sat there looking at my empty bowl of soup and my boba drink that was halfway done. I fucking hated myself. Fuckin’ pig. I felt disgustingly full. I felt so shitty about myself that I wanted to cry. To anyone passing by, I was just sitting, staring blankly at my food. On the inside I was breaking down, on the verge of tears. This wasn’t the first time I felt like this. In fact, I felt this way everytime I ate, especially when it was something I bought.

And while I’m on the verge of completely losing it, I look at the time a realize I got to get to class. I walk out into the darkness, not even caring about my surroundings. I’m passing by people but it’s all a blur. It doesn’t feel like real life, I’m too trapped in my head. I get to class and I’m still bothered. I hate myself. I feel disgusting. I’m so fat. You’ll never be happy with yourself.

Then it hit me. If I were to die at that exact moment, what would I have to show for it? I spent 22 years of my life hating the body I lived in. If I were to die right then and there, could I say I honestly lived? Or was the highlight of my life being forever insecure and unhappy with myself? “No more.” I thought to myself. This will be the body I die in. This will be the body and mind I have to live with everyday. Why waste my time hating it? Right then and there I refused to waste anymore time hating my body. It’s like a switch went off in my brain.

I went on Instagram and unfollowed every Kardashian, every account that would make me feel less than, every account that I compared myself to. I deleted a lot of famous people that edit their photos. “No more,” with every unfollow. It was empowering. I then started looking up body positive accounts.

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

All the while my professor is talking about diversity in journalism.

There was no stopping me. At the end of it all I felt my whole body was tingling. The best high – the road to self-love.

I started educating myself with the body positive community. I realized that I resonated with a lot of them. Their struggles were like mine. I felt likeI found my community.

Of course I didn’t accept and love my body that easily. It literally took so long to unlearn every negative thing that I have ever told myself. I found solace in the body positive community and feminism. When you realize that beauty industries profit off your insecurities, you really start to look at things differently.

Not too long ago I craved to be beautiful. Nowadays I crave to inspire, to be authentic, to be knowlegeable and smart. I crave to fight for body representation, and representation of people of color with different body types in the fashion industry. I declared Women Gender Studies my minor, and I truly feel like it opened up my mind.

I studied up on feminism and different ways that women are oppressed. It was like a revelation. I was intaking life differently. My existence in itself is a rebellious act. I’m a woman. A woman of color. A plus-sized woman. I felt empowered fighting for women’s rights, it’s like I had a new found passion. I was insecure my whole life because there was never anyone that looked like me on TV, in magazines, in Hollywood.

Today I am probably 50-60 lbs heavier than I was in high school. But I can honestly say that I am overall happy with myself. Of course I have those days where I feel big and gross, but I got to remind myself who I am. I am so much more than my weight. I am so much more than my outward appearance.

All that’s ever geared towards women are beauty products, dietary supplements, clothes, and all these things that focus on the outside. Growing up I thought this shit was normal. But what does that tell women? That they’re only good for their appearance, that it’s all they should care about. And I refuse to feed into toxic beauty standards and ideals.

To most, gaining weight is the worse thing that could happen to a women’s appearance. A couple years back I would agree. But now, I eat what I want, I wear what I want, I do what I want unapologetically. I strive to be healthier by working out, but if I don’t go for a straight month or 2, I’m not beating myself up about it.

Not giving a shit about beauty standards and societal norms has truly brought me peace of mind. I’ve grown so much – literally, spiritually, and mentally. This is my weight gain journey – it brought me to the path of self-love and self-acceptance.

For those of you who remember me 60 lbs lighter and have thought “yo, wtf happened to her?!” The answer is, she grew up, she found herself, she doesn’t give a fuck 🥰😘

In the Eyes of the Beholder

I’ve always stressed the importance of being media and social media fluent. If you keep up with my writing, you will notice that the topics I cover somehow come back to social media and comparisons, and how we intake and perceive media.

With me, social media is either a good thing or a bad thing, no inbetween. It’s either I’m inspired and motivated, drawing information and shared beliefs from pages I follow and educating myself, or down the rabbit hole I go. Everyone knows exactly what I mean. The rabbit hole of comparisons and insecurities. All of a sudden you’re questioning your successes in life because you came across a certain page on your explore, and then you read through the comments, and stalked her life, her friend’s life, shit you even found her mama’s page through the tags. And then you realize, wow, I don’t even know these people. And they literally don’t even know who I am 🤣 But everytime I go down that route, I have to remind myself that this is social media. It’s so fucking curated and sometimes – let’s all admit it – fake as fuck. Said this before and I’ll say it again – people only post what they want you to see.

Before I started posting on my blog consistently, I considered myself a pretty low-key person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been on social media. But I think compared to the average user, I was more private with my life. Yeah, I’d post here and there, once or twice a month, if not more, but I really feel like what I posted was nowhere close to disclosing parts of my real life to everyone. Even with stories on Instagram, I was never one to post about my daily life. I’m more of a “I’ll give you lil snippets here and there,” type of person. Of course, I’m not knocking the people that DO post all about their lives. I honestly can care less how you choose to use your social media platforms. It is truly none of my business. But I choose to keep my personal life under wraps. And it’s not until now that I’m posting my personal struggles on my blog that people see through the window of what I’m really like. And even then you still 100 ft. from said window, just sayin’.

I’m very choosy with what I choose to share and open up about, especially since this is with the public. It’s so weird that I want to live a low-key life, but at the same time I want to share everything to break societal norms. I hit a point in my life where I’m like… dude, fuck all this fake curated bullshit, show me something real, talk about some real deep shit, open up about those emo ass struggles we all face as humans. I was tired of seeing airbrushed, fake it till you make it, artificial ‘I’m livin’ my best life,’ type of content. So I started speaking my truth through my writing and journalistic work.

And at this point, I think we all know I’m not gonna front like I got my whole life made. Clearly, I’m so confused about my life and career decisions that I made how many blog posts about it just to vent. And to be honest, I’m probably not done writing about my anxieties yet.

Before I started posting consistently every week, I would occasionally post on my Instagram a blog post or article I wrote for SFSU’s Xpress Magazine. And that would seriously be like once every 2 months or something. Especially if it wasn’t for Xpress Magazine, and it was just me writing a personal blog post that was totally not school related, that shit would be like 1 post every 3+ months, if not longer.

I made this blog for school in 2016. At the beginning of 2019 I think I had like…. 33 or 34 posts. Maybe even less. More than half of those posts were blog posts I HAD to write for class / assignments / articles I wrote throughout my Journalism degree and thought, if I wrote it, might as well share it! Maybe less than 10 of those 33 ish posts were written ONLY for my blog and because I wanted to and felt like it.

So just picture how shocked and confused I was when this happened…

About 2-ish months after I officially graduated in December, I made plans to hangout with an old friend I’ve known since I was about 9 or 10 years old. Michael and I haven’t seen each other since our 8th grade graduation back in 2009, and briefly talked during our school reunion a year later when we were all freshmen in high school in 2010. So it was literally 10 years since the last time we saw each other and really caught up.

I didn’t know what to expect. Of course I was excited to hangout with him since we were super tight during our cringy years, but so much time had passed I didn’t know how it would be. But when I saw him, he started telling me about how he’s a crazy party animal, stories of how his life has been since being openly gay, and all the crazy shit he gets himself into! I was truly entertained with everything he was telling me. But rewind, before he disclosed all this information to me, we had to break the ice.

“Dude, so how are you! What’ve you been up to?” I asked.

Michael looked down in a shy manner, leaning on his hand, his elbow on the table.

“I don’t even want to say,” he said. “Nothing compared to what you’re doing. You’re so successful.”

My eyebrow rose in confusion. In my head I was like…. bruh…. I ain’t doin shit what’re you even talking about? 😩

I asked him to elaborate. He told me that he sees me doing “big things” with my blog, I just graduated college, and it seemed like I was very successful.

I almost choked on my Wingstop. I told him how insecure I was about my writing and making things public, how my life is in shambles after graduation because I don’t know what route to take with my life, and how overall confused I was.It really shocked me that he said that. Because he totally saw me in a different light than how I saw myself.

I visited my old journalism professor, Nancy, a few months after and told her about this incident. She pointed out that isn’t it crazy that I could be idolizing someone and comparing my life, but not even knowing that someone could be looking at me in the same light, even though I don’t feel that way about myself. Nancy explained to me that there will always be someone “ahead”of you and there will always be someone “behind” you, we’re all basically trying to make it at different paces. But that doesn’t mean that we are failures if someone is more ahead of us, and that also doesn’t make us more successful if we are the ones more ahead.

It made me realize that the people we think have it all together, probably don’t. In the example of me and Michael, he seriously thought I was so successful and secure in myself, when it was legit the opposite. Yes, I’ve made accomplishments in my life like graduating, and pursuing my writing career, but in my eyes, I’m far from where I want to be. But in the eyes of an outsider, without much context, it seems like I got my life figured out.

I think that’s why I respect Lizzo so much. She’s so successful, her career is flourishing, but she still remains transparent. She posts videos of when she’s depressed, and I think that’s very important to share your successes, but also your struggles. Especially being a famous person who people look up to, she promotes being real. She shows her human side, regardless of how much fame she receives.

A few days before the SFSU graduation ceremony, I met up with my friend, Ivan, to give him my extra Oracle Park graduation ticket. I originally was trying to sell the 2 extra tickets I had, but ended up giving both of them for free. “Fuckit, good karma coming my way,” I thought. In exchange for the graduation ticket, Ivan dropped me off to the crafting store, Michael’s, so I could get some last minute things for my graduation cap. And honestly, good karma did come my way because that drive with Ivan was exactly what my heart needed!

I’ve known Ivan since Skyline College. We are the definition of “started from the bottom now we hereee.” He’s like that gay best friend that always tries to hype you and remind you that you’re that bitch! And that’s exactly what he did during our drive to the craft store.

He could tell by the way I was venting that I was stressed. To the point where he was like “girl, we need to hangout, I could tell you’re really stressed out about this and need to talk!” Of course it was about the future and career choices.

Ivan reminded me who the fuck I was and what the fuck I stand for. It warmed my heart that he told me after all these years he still kept up with my writing. To the point where he described a specific story I did. A true king. I told him how scared I was about not making it in the industry, and how it’s hard to be a successful writer.

“Boo, you got this though,” he said. “You know what, I know you’ll make it. You’ve always been motivated. I have no doubt in my mind you’ll make it! You got the passion! I know you!”

I told him I do have the passion, and I do want to make a difference in this world with my writing. But I voiced my concerns about hoping that my passions can pay future bills. I told him I want to find a way or a middle ground where my passions and career collide and I can make decent money to live comfortably.

“Omg, yeah. That’s what sucks about being a humanitarian. You got passion and you want to make a difference, but you don’t get paid for shit.” And if that ain’t the fuckin truth 🤣🤣🤣.

But both of these conversations made me realize that we all come down on ourselves pretty hard. We’re always worried about the next job, next opportunity, next move, that we don’t celebrate the little victories. Also, you could be that someone that somebody else is stalking thinking, “damn, I wish I dressed / look like/ was as successful/ as confident/ as open/ as cool as them,” all the while you’re thinking you’re a failure and you ain’t shit. And social media plays a big role in that. Like I said a billion times before, people post their successes, but nobody really talks about the waves of emotion that comes with success. The person you are looking up to is probably going through it too. Whether they are famous or not.

We are all at different stages in our lives. What may be a major success to someone is something minor to the next. If you find yourself falling down that toxic rabbit hole and you’re comparing yourself and feeling mad insecure, just know that everyone is struggling in one way or another. Nobody truly has their life together. You’ll also never really know everything about someone just through their social media platforms. We’re all human. We all go through it. In reality, we all want to be perceived as successful and that we have our lives together. But it’s okay if you don’t. Success is truly in the eyes of the beholder.