3 Sides

They say that there are 3 sides to every story – your side, their side, and the truth. This saying is very logical and makes a ton of sense on paper. However, when it’s applied to real life scenarios, the gray area starts to creep in. This saying could easily be interpreted as “gaslighting” depending on who you’re talking to. And it can be easy to get blindsided by your own reality. If everyone is interpreting things completely different, what is even the truth?

I have been in this situation many times where you’re debating what was said or done with someone else. It can be a very frustrating position to be in. Especially when, in theory, these little discrepancies don’t even matter when you’re looking at the bigger picture. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying. I have even mentally threw in the towel a couple of times, knowing that arguing the details will make it that much more harder to move on and come to a conclusion. I have even expressed wishing I had video footage so we could just rewind and really see parts of our lives play out right in front of our eyes so we can see who was really right.

Sometimes I do think of what it would be like to have footage of the exact time and scenario being brought up. I think about this often, and how convenient it would be to hold everyone, including myself, accountable. Have you ever been put in a situation where someone or some people got you fucked up and you want to rewind that shit to prove every point you’re trying to make? Because same. Sometimes it takes embarrassing, moded, undeniable facts to hold people accountable to their actions.

In the past, when someone or something had me fucked up, I’d put so much energy into trying to prove my points. Especially when I knew what I was arguing was the “truth,” I’d put my heart and soul into proving my point. You’d think that my ass was studying law with how much I tried to defend my stance and case. I’m very opinionated, and when I’m very confident and believe something to be true, it takes a lot for me to back down. I admit that sometimes that shit blows up in my face when I am in fact, wrong as hell. But it takes a lot for me to change my mind if I’m confident in what I’m saying.

But the truth is, fighting and arguing over what your reality is versus someone else’s is exhausting as hell. Because you end up both going in circles just trying to justify your own points. It quickly turns one sided and you’re talking to just speak over the other without trying to hear their side. Everyone is just saying their own points as to why they’re right or why their stance or actions are valid, and it just becomes people talking out into space. No one cares what the other is saying, but they sure as hell need to make sure that at the very least, they’re saying their peace. Even if no one is listening. And like I said…. it’s exhausting as hell.

I have been on both ends of the scenario where I feel like I’m being gaslit or someone feels like I’m gaslighting them. And it’s not a fun position to be in. Because you start to second guess yourself, you start to second guess them, and then you start to second guess what the truth actually is. It will literally have you doubting which reality, if any, is valid. If there are 3 sides to every story, is there even a “truth,” or are we all just set in our own ways and realities?

I actually have no answer for these questions. But what I do know is this: I gave up on trying to convince people of my reality if they are unreceptive to my words. It doesn’t even have to be an argument either, I mean that in every scenario. I have hit the stage in my life where I no longer feel like I have to explain myself, my truth, or my reality to anyone that isn’t deserving of it. You don’t need to explain yourself to those that, from the get, want to have a certain perception of you. Learn not to waste your breath.

I saw this meme that was circulating that basically said not to put in effort to try to clean up your name when you know what’s being said isn’t true. At first, your first reaction may be to defend your name and set the record straight. But it’s your truth versus theirs, and if people want to see you in a certain light, nothing you say will change their mind. And if that’s the case, let people think what they want.

There are always 3 sides to every story. I didn’t get the full magnitude of that saying until recently. When I was younger, I would hear that saying and think, “…Ok but there’s really only 1 side… the truth.” But I’ve come to learn that it’s all about interpretation. All of our realities and what we believe to be true are all subjective. Your reality and truth can be crystal clear to you, but can be interpreted so differently to someone else. Just like how another person’s actions or intentions may seem one way, but can actually be another. But in both scenarios, both parties are “right” in their own respect because it is their interpretation and own understanding of what’s at hand.

There are 3 sides to every story if you want there to be. It goes south when people start to deny another person’s perspective, feelings, or reality. And sometimes, that shit can be hard as fuck not to do, because it can feel like someone else’s truth is so out of left field that you can’t even begin to try to see their point of view. That’s the harsh reality I’ve been having to come to terms with – people are entitled to their own opinions and truths, but they’re not obligated to understand yours. So there are 3 sides to every story if you understand that your truth may be different than someone else’s, under the same exact scenario.

POV: 2017

As I stood there impatiently, for what seemed like a 10 minute long wait to fill up my Hydro Flask, I thought back to what my reality was like almost 5 years ago. Even writing the title of this post: “POV: 2017,” I had a “damn” moment, realizing that 2017 was literally 5 years ago. I can’t wrap my head around that. In my mind, it still feel like I’m in the year 2019. 2020 at the very latest. I can’t believe such a significant amount of time has passed.

Anyways, there I was, standing in my kitchen on a Thursday night, thinking of all the work I had to do the next morning. The preschool is nearing the end of the school year. That means a lot of things need to get done to close out this school year before we shut down and we go on summer break. I thought about my current position at work and where I stand in my life in general. Even though the next day’s stresses were weighing heavy on me already, I thought back to a time where I couldn’t imagine being where I’m at now.

I thought back to 2017, and damn, it took me back. I had flashbacks of me sitting in that gray chair leaned against the wall of the Kid’s Club at the gym. Those 4 walls of Fitness 19 were my life from 2014 – 2017, and I ain’t talking about working out. I spent 4 hours a day in that little room, I’ll never forget that blue carpet with the colorful crayon pattern that, for some reason, went halfway up the walls. I had made that space my own – bringing in my own movies for the kids to watch so I’m not watching Frozen for 4 hours straight, even though that’s what ended up happening anyways. To this day, I can probably recite every word to Frozen, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and some episodes of Super Mario Brothers.

I had great memories working at the Kid’s Club – I took care of some awesome kids, befriended their parents, and had a lot of deep talks in that small room with close friends, new friends, and members of the gym. It was also the room my friends and I used to workout in when we felt insecure about being judged by the regular gym goers. I’ve had countless phone interviews for articles I was writing for Xpress Magazine where I sat crisscross apple sauce on that nasty ass ABC mat. It was the job I had while I was in community college, and for a while when I was at SF State. It was the job that got me by, and even though it just barely got me by, given that I lived at home and had no real bills to pay, it was a great first job to have. It reminded me of simpler times, where all I cared about was my social life, school, and having fun.

But clearly, working at the Kid’s Club at my local gym was not my dream job or end goal. When it got slow at the Kid’s Club, I have vivid memories of staring off into space, completely zoning out. Don’t worry – the kids were fine – probably watching a movie or playing amongst each other. But with 4 hours to basically sit and watch kids who have made friendships with one another and waste no time chopping it up amongst each other, it left a lot of time for me to sit and think. At times it felt like that room was my mental prison. I was always thinking of what the next step of anything would be – the next stage of life, the next stage of school, the next stage of my career, the next stage in my relationship, the future as a whole.

Now, I know I said the job reminds me of simpler times, which is true. However, that’s me in the present looking back at it now. Back then, I was equally as stressed out, just in different ways. The pressure of school deadlines, maintaining my grades, a social life, all while being broke as shit was no walk in the park. Looking at it now, I was just at the threshold of adulting, and if current me could give 2017 year old me any advice, I’d say that the current stresses in life would just be replaced with different ones – enjoy the mother fucking process. But 2017 me was 22, in the thick of my school career and on the cusp of trying to get my life together.

I enjoyed my job, but at the same time I knew I wanted more. Obviously working minimum wage as a glorified baby sitter wasn’t my dream job, but I knew there were other ways for me to feel more fulfilled for the time being until I graduated and figured out what to do with me life. 2017 Marinelle felt uninspired, lost, and burnt out working at the Kid’s Club. I felt the anxiety from deep within my soul when thinking about the future. I would sit on that gray chair, staring off into space, and literally wait for time to pass by.

One day, with the usual 3 favorite movie rotation, I managed to sneak in a movie other than Frozen. To my satisfaction, Tangled was playing in the background as I did my routine – kids comes, they play with each other and ignore me, I put on a movie for background noise, and I watch and manage the kids as my mind wanders. I can distinctly remember the next steps of my relationship was heaviest on my mind. At the time, Christian was going from living situation to living situation, staying in the Bay Area solely for our relationship. All first generation Filipino Americans can relate – moving out is a big deal. It’s not just financial independence and venturing out into the real world, it’s also nerve wrecking and a drama-filled topic to even bring up.

I knew the next steps in our relationship would be to move in together. But I was stressed as shit knowing that I was nowhere near financially able to do so. I wanted to do things the “right way,” and I was incredibly overwhelmed with the fact that we literally live in the most expensive area in the country. I felt like there was no “right way” to check all the boxes to appease everyone. I was stuck, emotionally exhausted, and I felt like my life was at a standstill. I dreamt of the day where I could say that everything building up until that moment was worth the struggle, the fight, the late night stress. I wanted more than anything to be done with school, start my writing career, and live a comfortable life. I had no idea how I would get to that point.

In the thick of all of these anxious thoughts, the song, “When Will My Life Begin,” started to play in the background of the Kid’s Club. I’m a singer – not the best out of the bunch, but that never stopped me. I sing because I like to, not because I think I actually have bars. So like any other day, I sang along to the lyrics. Usually, I would sing the background song while casually scrolling through my phone, not paying too much attention to the meaning and what I’m actually saying. This specific day though, the Tangled sound track hit a little different. Singing the words, “When will my life begin?” hit me. Damn, that’s deep. I felt that shit in my soul. I couldn’t relate more. That’s exactly how I felt in that exact moment in time. I remember daydreaming about having it all together and figured out in the future, looking back to this exact moment. That’s what I wanted so desperately – to know that it was going to get better and things were going to sort itself out eventually. And it did.

I stood there, my Hydro Flask just barely getting to the top, finally. And I remembered that I would’ve never guessed to be where I’m at now back then. I remembered that what I’m living and doing right now is exactly what I wanted just 5 years ago. Sometimes I need to take that step back to realize that even though I’m not exactly where I want to be in life, in my career, in XYZ… I’m still making progress in the right direction. That’s not always so apparent from day to day life, but when you see the picture, you see how far you’ve come. I need to appreciate that life happens in mysterious ways. I can only imagine where I’ll be 5 years from now when I think back to this moment – filling up my water bottle on a Thursday night in 2022.

The Smiling Photograph

My dad’s mom, Conching, passed away during childbirth over 55 years ago. At the time, my dad was about 5 years old. Tatay was left to care for 7 children, ages ranging from about 14 to 2. Like their ages, what each sibling remembers of Nanay Conching ranges as well. Some remember the day she passed away vividly, some remember bits and pieces of isolated moments, and some remember nothing at all. Because my dad and aunt were the 2 youngest siblings, they heavily relied on the memories of their older siblings to get an idea of what kind of person their mom was.

From what I have gathered throughout the years, my grandma was a very kind and religious woman. She was the eldest of her siblings, and had a very nurturing personality. Every new piece of information lit up my family’s faces. Each story, memory, and photograph was like striking gold. My cousins and I wanted to know more about the woman that left such an impact on everyone that knew her. We have all wondered what our family would be like had Nanay Conching and my Auntie Merlinda survived. We’d probably have more aunts and uncles, more cousins, and a way bigger family – which is hard to believe, given that our family is already pretty large.

Since Nanay Conching passed away so long ago, and at such a young age, there are only a handful of photos of her that we’ve seen. I personally have only seen a total of 4 photos of Nanay Conching: a solo photo of her in a traditional Filipino dress, the picture of her and Tatay on their wedding day, a photo of my great grandparents (her parents) and all of her siblings holding a painting of her after she passed, and her and my aunt’s tomb stones in the Philippines. These are the only photos that the family has to remember her by. I’m sure that there might be more photos in the Philippines in the albums of very distant family members, but these are the few gems the family’s aware of.

My family is known to have a big family “story time.” We all gather in the living room – you know it’s about to be story time just from the vibe. They turn off the TV, everyone grabs a seat nearby, and it becomes a family group discussion. This usually happens when family from out of state visits the Bay Area – it would routinely happen during Tatay’s birthdays. I don’t know when these family story times started becoming a thing, but they seem to be happening more often as us “kids” start to get older. We feel more comfortable to ask the adults more thought-provoking questions on how they were raised, what they remember, and what life was like immigrating to a new country right after their mother passed away.

Each story told, each point of view shared, each memory ingrained in my aunts, uncles, and dad’s pasts, helps us understand their upbringing and how it has personally effected them as parents, partners, and individuals. Because we know our loved ones’ pasts, it brings to light all the unspoken emotions that their generation couldn’t find the words to express properly. Understanding our family’s generational trauma has planted the seed of change in my cousins and I’s heads. For me, love is many things, one thing that love is is wanting to try to understand. Trying to understand means that you not only want to listen, but that you want them to feel heard. Attempting to understand other people’s pasts and lives brings healing for them, and can connect the pieces in your own mind about why they are the way they are.

I’ve heard many sides and point of views of the day my grandma passed away. Some details vary from sibling to sibling, as time sometimes clouds the memory. One thing that everyone could agree on – regardless of what they remembered and how old they were – was the fact that my grandma’s death put Tatay in a frenzy. He was left widowed with 7 children to care for. Tragedy brought my family closer together and made the stitching of their bond to each other that much tighter. Because they lost a parent so early on in their lives, they cherished Tatay that much more, regardless of how flawed and irritable he was.

Now that Tatay has passed on, a lot of change has happened in our family in the last year. A lot of family are moving out of the Bay Area – something that I never thought would happen in my lifetime. For some reason, I’ve always believed that my extended family on both sides would stay in the Bay Area for life. Looking back now, I know that’s pretty unreasonable, but when I think of “home” I think of the Bay Area. As family starts to branch out outside of California, I think it’s important to try to maintain the closeness and bond that we are all so used to.

A few months ago, we took a trip to visit family that recently moved out of state. It was an amazing experience to explore a state we’d probably never think to visit otherwise. It was hands down one of the best family trips I have ever been on. When entering a home I’ve never been to before, I love to look at all the pictures that are up in the house. I feel like the pictures that are up in someone’s house says a lot about them and what’s important to them. I made my way around my uncle’s living room, dining room, bedroom, and anywhere with pictures up.

I analyzed all of the photos in my uncle’s home, each tucked away in a frame, some big, some small. As I admired the collage frame hanging next to the front door, I noticed some faces that looked very familiar at the top right. It was a photo of Tatay and Nanay Conching on their wedding day. But this wasn’t the wedding photo we were all familiar with, this was one I’ve never seen before. There in front of me was a picture of both my grandparents smiling ear to ear. It dawned on me that this was the first time I’ve ever seen a photo of my grandma smiling.

I immediately took pictures of the photo and sent it my dad and aunt who couldn’t make the trip. They also shared that they have never seen the photo before either. My aunt texted me, thanking me for sending it her way. Being the youngest sibling, my aunt was only 2 years old when her mom passed away. Her and my dad have no memories of their own of their mother. All that they have gathered about their mom has been stories passed down from their older siblings. She shared that this was the first picture she ever saw of her mom smiling, and it brought tears to her eyes. There is nothing that can fill the void of losing a parent so young, but a picture of both of her parents smiling was the next best thing for my aunt. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture left us speechless.

It was a nice surprise to discover that photo that day. Especially with so much change happening, it’s nice to get those signs from the other side that they’re still around. Or at the very least, a reminder of the people that started it all. Sometimes discovering a photo that you never knew existed could really move you in ways that are unexplainable. For me, the smiling photograph filled my heart in many ways.

Forgiveness Without An Apology

One of the worst feelings there is is feeling like someone close to you did you wrong, played you, betrayed you, disrespected you, used you, took you for granted, and the list goes on. This isn’t just limited to romantic partners – there are so many more relationships out there that can have the same aftermath of hurt and bitterness equivalent to a break up. Friendships, romantic relationships, professional relationships, acquaintance relationships, family relationships, can all turn sour in the blink of an eye. But when someone, especially when it’s someone really close to you, betrays your trust or disrespects you in some way, it can be hard to forgive. Especially if you plan to cut off the communication and walk away from the friendship or relationship, it can get very complicated. You’re left feeling hurt and robbed in multiple ways.

How do you forgive someone that never gave you an apology?

This is one of those situations where you know the right answer on how to react and go about it the “healthy” way, but it’s so fucking hard to practice in real life. Scenarios like these, trying to forgive someone and heal without an apology, is the perfect example of “easier said than done.” You know that you’re supposed to take the higher road and just forgive and move on. But how do you forgive without an apology? Is an apology needed to get closure? Who is the closure actually for? What does an apology achieve? What if they don’t think an apology is owed?

This is a topic that has come up time and time again with my different circle of friends. Even though everyone’s scenario is different, forgiveness without an apology is a common pickle to be in. It got me thinking about my own personal struggles with forgiving people who never gave me an apology. It’s so much more different when you’re giving someone else advice about closure, moving past hurt feelings, and being the bigger person through forgiveness. Offering my own past and present experiences as examples has allowed me to see how the past me vs. the present me would deal with things.

I remember when I went through my first break up, which seemed like lifetimes ago, I was so bitter and angry. I had so much hate and resentment in my heart because I didn’t get the apology I desperately wanted… In fact, I didn’t want it, I needed it. I needed some type of acknowledgment, some type of break through lightbulb going off in their head moment, any sign of ownership in the hurt that was caused. At the time, I thought an apology would’ve brought me closure. Closure to leave things in the past, accept all the hurt that I went through, and move on with my life. But because I didn’t get that apology when I needed it, I used my deep feelings of hate and resentment to move on.

I ended up getting that apology about a year later. But in that year, I struggled with going through the motions of healthily letting the past be the past because I felt entitled to an apology that never came. In that time, I clung onto “It will give me closure,” for so long. I was over the relationship, but the bitterness and hate still lingered until I got that apology. And after the fact, and many years down the line, I realized that I gave someone so much power over me. It was crazy to think that I literally thought I couldn’t fully be at peace on my own without an apology from someone else.

As I got older though, I started to realize that my mentality for closure in any scenario was all messed up. It didn’t matter if it was closure I needed from a friend, romantic partner, family member, etc. In the event of feeling wronged by another, it wasn’t closure that was driving me. It was embarrassment. It was shame. It was pride. Especially in a situation where I feel disrespected in some way, my emotions are through the roof. It’s not just one emotion, you’re usually feeling so many emotions all at once that it can be hard to sift out every single one. I would be too prideful to dissect my feelings in the past. The most prominent emotion has always been anger. When I’m hurt or sad, I express it by being angry. Since it’s the most dominant emotion, I usually just focus all my energy on why a situation angered me, not really diving into the other emotions I’m possibly feeling.

If I’m being completely honest, this is the first time I’m actually breaking down my train of thought when it comes to needing closer. I was more than aware that how I dealt with certain scenarios in the past were coming from a place of hurt that was never sorted out. But putting words and feelings to the process is actually pretty helpful. When you feel you are owed an apology after a situation, the underlying point is that your feelings were hurt. All the emotions that are felt can all be explained by admitting that your feelings were hurt. But hurt feelings can be disguised into other emotions. For me, the feelings of being moded and embarrassed sets in the more I think and dwell on a situation.

How embarrassing and naïve of you to befriend someone like that.

You were played dirty like an idiot, you look stupid.

They don’t respect you or your feelings enough to apologize. It shows where you stand in their life.

After the embarrassment is felt, the shame comes. The humiliation settles into the crevices of your mind. You’re forced to fill in the gaps for yourself. You start overthinking everything up until that point. Your imagination and hurt feelings start creating narratives that aren’t even provable yet. At first, you start to blame them, but then you start reflecting on yourself.

Was it something I did?

I bet they switched up because….

They started acting different around this time, how long was there an issue?

Where did it go bad?

Then the pride sets in. And it’s the ugliest feeling of them all. It’s the side of you that wants to even the score. It’s the side of you that needs to be more hurtful because your feelings were hurt. It’s the side of you that wants to have the last word and end the conversation once and for all. It’s where self worth and ego meet. Even if you feel like you deserve an apology, and an apology is rightfully owed, your pride might tell you that it is something you deserve, something that is rightfully owed to you.

How dare they do XYZ to me and betray my trust?

How can they be so oblivious to how they mistreated me?

I can never forgive them without an apology.

If from a genuine place, an apology will benefit both parties. It’s good for people to acknowledge when they’re in the wrong and have caused some degree of hurt or pain to another. At the same time, it validates the other party – you were entitled to feel X, Y, and Z because I did X, Y, and Z. It lets them know that the other person is conscious of what transpired, and admits their wrong doing. It means there was some sort of reflection that went on behind the scenes, some sort of deeper thought went into it after the fact, and they were putting themselves in your shoes to some degree. Sometimes an apology is what can unfreeze a cold heart. At the end of the day, we just all want to be understood.

But if that apology is never given, you can’t spend your life in limbo angrily waiting for it. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. A lot of the time, you have to forgive because it’s the only way to free yourself. It can be tough to accept that there was no acknowledgment, there was no acceptance, there was no closure. It may seem ridiculous to forgive someone that does not deserve it. But forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself to avoid that inner turmoil that can occur when you hold onto negative feelings. It’s harder to process hurt feelings when you feel like you need an apology from whoever hurt you. Without them acknowledging your hurt, taking responsibility for their actions, or seeing your side, you may feel like it’s impossible to forgive and find peace on your own. But the power of peace and closure is not in someone else’s hands, it’s in yours. In the moment, it may be hard to see the bigger picture – that you are letting someone else’s decisions dictate your ability to heal.

Many times, getting people to see their part in a situation is close to impossible. What gets my blood boiling is when I know I am owed an apology, but the other party is gaslighting and saying my reality was not valid at the time. What got me in the past, whether that be in friendships, relationships, or arguments, was the fact that I wanted my reality to be validated, I wanted my experience to be known, at the very least, I wanted acknowledgment that I didn’t deserve a lot of the things I went through. But to give another person or people power over you like that is exhausting. Your worth isn’t determined by someone else. Just like your ability to move on and forgive is not determined by someone else either.

Forgiveness without an apology is not an easy thing to do. And there are lots of people out there that have not mastered forgiveness for themselves. And that’s not to knock or diss to anyone who is holding onto a lot of hurt and hate in their heart due to someone else’s wrong doing. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. But allowing someone to fuck with you so deep that a part of you is still bitter is not worth it. At the end of the day, you are holding that negativity inside, you are feeling the resentment, you are taking the L because misery loves company. The hard truth is this: you don’t need an apology. You will live, you’ll move on. And as cliché as it sounds, the only apology you need is the apology to yourself, for allowing someone else’s actions to affect your inner peace.

You can cling onto wanting an apology for so long, but sometimes, an apology doesn’t mean shit. We’ve all heard the stories of people that have been so badly scarred by another, that even if given an apology, forgiveness is so far out of the picture and unfathomable to even do. And honestly, sometimes people are justified in feeling that way. There are scenarios where people do malicious things that are just straight up unforgiveable. There are times where apologies don’t offer any closure at all, and the absence of an apology does absolutely nothing. It is in these moments that some will realize that the deep desire for “closure” by hearing “I’m sorry,” was never in the other person’s court at all. The ball was always in your court.

So what is closure? And why is closure and apologies so closely tied together? Does one not exist without the other? I used to think that I needed certain things to be known, said, or acknowledged to have closure. I wanted my point to be known, I wanted my side to be heard, I wanted to voice my opinions – that to me was closure. And if I didn’t get that opportunity to straight roast someone, say some smart ass shit I thought up after the fact, or have some fire comebacks that make me sound like a boss ass bitch for me to drop the mic and never say another thing to not taint my victory – it wasn’t closure. For me, I had to make an exit like a boss for closure.

Sometimes, you want that apology so bad that you overthink it. You overthink what an acceptable apology is. You play in your head the ideal apology you would like to receive. But often times, if there is an apology given, it’s not as satisfying as the one you conjured up in your head. Because only you know what parts need to be addressed that hurt you so badly. Which is why the power of healing should not be in someone else’s hands. You need to come to terms with the circumstances and how everything played out. You need to find peace in knowing the part they played as well as the part you played. Only you can give yourself that clarity.

Forgiveness without an apology may seem impossible. But it’s the kindness you show to yourself that is the real test. Most of the closure you need will be found within yourself. You don’t need an apology from someone else to find closure. Closure and forgiveness are actions you take to protect yourself and your own inner peace. The ball is always in your court if you want it to be.

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.

Jayna: Moms Are Still A Work In Progress

“This is story 8 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Motherhood Series. 10 mothers give us a glimpse into a small portion of their motherhood journey. I am so grateful that these 10 women gave me the opportunity to share their stories on my platform. Though they focus on different topics, each mother has gone through challenges that tested their strength, patience, and sense of self. Thank you again for sharing.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

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

“If you were to ask me how motherhood looked like for me 2 years ago, I would’ve said, ‘well, breast-pumping sucks, I’m tired af, and the constant questioning of, ‘when does this get easier?’ crosses my mind as many times as I breathe in a day.’ Today, Motherhood for me still looks like all of the above minus the breast pumping. Truthfully, parenting is hard and if you are a parent, I know I don’t need to tell you that. But for me, navigating through my current life as a ‘stay-at-home mom’ these past 2 years has met me with so many internal challenges of self-doubt and anxiety/depression that I never expected to go through as a mom. 

Ultimately, being faced with the adversities of motherhood has guided me to the start of my own self-discovery and healing journey to continuously work on becoming the best person and mom I can be for my son, Cade. While I speak from my own personal experience, I do believe it is 100% a full-time job to learn how to raise a child that requires your undivided love and attention, all while pretty much still raising yourself and learning who you are as an individual.

 Being a mom has brought me the awareness I never knew I needed to learn. And it helped uncover my personal triggers and consciously build my awareness to not ‘take it out’ on my child when he decided that his lunch looks better thrown all over the floor or when he decided to happily jump on my bed while unknowingly smearing a poop-filled diaper onto my bed sheets (true story). But you’re telling me, moms don’t get paid for this? Just kidding…

At my most vulnerable state, there are lots of days when I don’t feel like being a mom, doing mom duties, or just having my mind consumed with anything and every little thing involving my son, only then to ask myself at the end of the day, ‘Am I doing enough? Am I a good mom?’ These thoughts still make me feel incredibly guilty at times but I’ve learned to accept that they’re completely normal to have and not every day or even half the days as a parent will go as we expect it to. 

I think the feeling of me ‘not wanting to be a mom’ at times comes from a combination of the mental exhaustion I feel from being a stay-at-home mom, as well as my personal issues with anxiety and depression. When I think back to my life before becoming a mom, I always dealt with bouts of anxiety and depression from the time I was 12 years old to my earliest knowledge. It can feel ten times more overwhelming for present-day-me to internally work through my mental health struggles while caring for a toddler and being a safe space for his own emotions as well. 

Cade is extremely clingy to me (I’m his one and only caretaker for the majority of the day until David gets home from work) and I find myself getting overwhelmingly frustrated, stressed out, and helpless trying to figure out his growing needs and tantrums. However, what this shows me is that for me to readily meet my child with love, patience, and understanding, it requires me to always hold love, patience, and understanding with myself first and foremost.

My personal struggle of trying to have everything figured out as a new mom and actively raising my son added to the pressure of having yet to establish my career. It is definitely the hardest battle I go through daily. Society has its way of making you feel like what you’re doing isn’t enough whether you’re a parent or not. And everyone seems to have an opinion/judgment on your life like they know what’s best for you. I personally struggle at times with feeling like I need to prove myself to others in my life to deserve acceptance as if what I do as a stay-at-home mom isn’t enough.

I hold strongly to the belief that a person can’t meet you somewhere where they’ve never been. In other words, a person can’t begin to understand you without judgment if they haven’t been close to being in your shoes. It’s no one’s place to judge anyone but people will be people and that’s something I have no control over.

Nonetheless, I fully recognize that it’s a blessing to be able to be a stay-at-home mom over the past two years, and I never take that for granted. But just like any job, it comes with stress, hardship, and a whole lot of mental and emotional battles that an outsider wouldn’t see, let alone someone that hasn’t spent a day in their life raising a child. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that sure as hell doesn’t mean they know a fraction of what’s best for you or even understand what you go through. I remind myself daily that the only opinion that truly matters at the end of the day is the one that I hold of myself. 

Before becoming a mom, I never self-reflected or took the time to learn about my anxiety and depression. From having an unexpected C-section, to adjusting to life as a new mom with new responsibilities, to having little emotional and physical support during this challenging time, made it clear as ever to me that I needed to start taking care of myself. And for the first time in my life, stop internalizing all of my emotions and pain. My anxiety and depression will always be a part of my life but I’m on a life-long journey to consistently cope in healthy and healing ways. 

I truly never prioritized my mental health or even understood what ‘mental health’ means. Because of this, I always felt anxious and worried that I’m not a ‘good mom.’ Cade just turned 2 years old and I still struggle with that feeling. But I understand now that I’m in control of my thoughts and feelings. I still get anxious, but I’ve learned to let my worries go instead of clinging onto them and letting them multiply. 

 I’ll always experience hard days where my anxiety will tell me that I must be doing something wrong, but what’s important is how I don’t allow myself to get stuck in that narrative because it’s simply not true. One way I do this is to ‘fill my cup first’ by doing things that support my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. This is so I feel more able to approach whatever kind of day my son is having with that patience, love, and understanding – because I’ve taken care of myself first. 

An easy thing I like to do, that takes less than 5 minutes each morning, is to set my day with an intention before I even get out of bed – especially on those hard days when I ‘don’t feel like being a mom.’ I’ll take a minute to stretch, take a few deep belly breaths(life-changing and I highly recommend it if you struggle with anxiety), and I’ll repeatedly tell myself something as simple as, ‘I am patient. I am strong. I am the best mom to my son.’ Some days I’ll get lazy or forget to do this and I’ve just started to appreciate the impactful difference it makes in my mood and how I handle Cade’s hundred waves of moods. 

I never truly felt like I ‘found myself’ before becoming a mom, so now I feel like I’m still finding and trying to be who I want to become while still becoming the mom I want to be. The most challenging part of this is simply taking the time and effort to do the things that I want to do and prioritizing my self-care. For me, that’s giving myself permission to let go of any ‘mom guilt’ or worry I may have and literally just do whatever it is I want to do in that moment without Cade and enjoy every minute of a much deserved ‘break.’ Some days this looks like taking a walk by myself and catching up on Jay Shetty’s latest podcast episode, or learning to sit with and address toxic thoughts, and other days it’s just eating Samyang spicy ramen noodles in peace without having to try to explain to a screaming toddler why he can’t have any or else his mouth is going to have a ‘booboo.’

While I currently don’t have my career established like others might, I feel that I’m where I’m supposed to be in this present time and that’s with my son. Anyone can be a parent, but to be a parent that also recognizes there is so much more to it than just providing the basic necessities to survive is hard work. Becoming a mom sort of forced me into a deep self-reflection of how I was raised and conditioned to be as an adult. It’s a daily choice and effort I have to make to consciously learn how to reparent myself and break generational trauma to parent Cade in a way where he grows up knowing that his feelings are valid, important, and respected. 

There’s always going to be that feeling of ‘pressure’ to have my ‘life together’ according to societal norms. But right now, I’m at peace with all that I’m doing- working on my self-development and prioritizing my mental health while being a stay-at-home mom raising a toddler. As long as I know I’m flourishing in that part of my life, I’m confident that I will ‘figure everything else out’ in due time and on my own time. It gets hard to not feel anxious about what the future holds for me, but that’s when I try to push myself to see the good in my life – practicing gratitude for everything in my life presently and focusing less on what it’s not or what it could be.

I really don’t have this all figured out, and maybe I never will. But motherhood to me will remain a journey presented with unraveling lessons, and Cade being a reminder of my self-growth, healing, and development. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, working mom, or both, what you’re doing is enough and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There is no such thing as a perfect parent but I truly feel the best thing we can provide to our kids is the life-long journey of healing ourselves and allowing ourselves to become better individuals as our kids will become exactly who and what we model to them. 

The most important thing for me to teach Cade is to be kind and loving to himself and others. I want him to live each day intentionally grounded by respect, compassion, honesty, and nothing short of his true authentic self. Additionally, I want him to grow up knowing that every single feeling/emotion he experiences at any time in his life is 100% valid. Seeing Cade grow more and more every day and become a tiny little person will always be a blessing. But the best part of motherhood for me currently would be the new perspective it’s given me on myself, my life, and who I want to be for my child. As well as the life and lessons I want to be able to give him outside of material things. 

If I could give pre-Cade Jayna any advice, I’d tell her this:

Please don’t ever give up on healing yourself to become the person you’ve always needed. And love yourself before loving anyone else.” -Jayna

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

Rohit: Lessons From My Weight Gain & Loss Journey

Story 5 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 Rohit’s story, written in his own words:

My Weight Gain & Loss Story 

I always loved Shōnen stories when I was a kid. For the uninitiated, Shōnen is one of the most popular genres of anime, typically featuring a male protagonist who embarks on an adventure filled with challenges. My first exposure to the genre came through Pokémon, which I’d obsessively wake up to watch on Saturday mornings throughout my childhood. Looking back, my fascination with Pokémon and similar shows stemmed from the main character’s relentless pursuit of a goal or self-perfection, the clear distinction between good and evil, and the excitement that follows exploring the world around us. Unfortunately, Pokémon is where my issues with body positivity likely started. And it’s exactly what you’re  thinking – the exposure to extremely skinny, fit male figures in Pokémon and other shows unconsciously shaped my mental model of what constitutes beautiful and attractive, and has been something I’ve worked my entire life to overcome. 

I hope that in sharing my story, others struggling with similar issues can understand that they’re not alone and appreciate that self-love is one of the most beautiful aspects of the human condition. While progress in most things in life is usually not linear, the setbacks, insecurities, and painful feelings I experienced  through my weight gain, weight loss, muscle gain, and muscle loss make me who I am today and I’m thankful for them.  

Having a body-positive self-image has never been a strength of mine. At 26 years old I am still struggling with low self-esteem due to ingrained beliefs around what my body should look like. I became painfully  aware of my body and how others perceive it in middle school when my peers began making jokes about how fat I was, saying things like “When you walk around, it can cause earthquakes!” At that point in time I likely weighed 140 pounds and was 5’7”. Despite being relatively tall for my age, there was no hiding it. You might be wondering, “How did he get to that point?” My relationship with food was extremely unhealthy. Even as early as elementary school, I remember chowing down on McDonald’s and Burger King chicken sandwiches that my loving mother would drop off for me on weekdays. It didn’t matter if I got a  bad grade on my math test, was bullied in school, or felt alone, because I knew I always had food to comfort  me. And like most kids at that age with immigrant parents, I needed a lot of comforting. Over time I developed an addiction to fried, fast food and probably played a big role in keeping my local Olive Garden and Burger King alive. 

Whenever I’d see family or family friends they’d be quick to point out how chubby I was. “You’ve got such big cheeks!” and “Did you gain weight?” were usually the first thing they’d say to me whenever they visited. Over time the embarrassment grew to such an extreme level that I’d instinctively run upstairs to my room whenever someone rang the doorbell. My parents chalked that up to my shyness and introverted-ness, but looking back it was largely because I hated how people would comment on my weight, and I’d rather just avoid social interaction altogether. Video games and TV shows didn’t make me feel bad about myself. My mother would typically reassure me saying that having big bones runs in the  family, it’s just temporary, and not to worry about it. I definitely worried about it.  

When middle school came around and the harmful jokes and comments abounded, I realized that I could  use humor as a deflection – by being silly and ridiculous in and outside of class, I hoped that the attention would be taken off my weight, even just for a moment. Sadly, even my most fire jokes couldn’t spare me from the almost daily humiliation that was PE class. I distinctly remember being the slowest person in the entire class to run a mile – I never made it under 10 minutes! And scoring low on other fitness-related exams, reinforcing my belief that I’m worse than others and something is wrong with my body. 

After years of enduring hurtful jokes and comments in addition to seeing idealized images of men’s bodies in movies and TV, I became disgusted with my body. I would actively avoid going swimming – which was  hard when the pool party was at your house – because it would expose my rotundness. I would look at myself whenever I would change in the mirror with shame, and dress in baggy clothing to distract people from the shape of my body. Compounding this internalized shame and resentment is my lifelong struggle with  perfectionism, thinking that the way I looked should be a certain way and, in my mind, I always fell short. 

When I made it to high school, already disgusted with my body, I became committed to changing the body that brought me so much pain. Thankfully, I channeled my frustration and angst into my weight loss regiment. It took many months and a lot of discipline, healthy eating, and exercise, but I was able to lose twenty pounds during my Sophomore year and started to take pride in how I looked for the first time. This is where my story maybe takes a turn from others in the body positive community – part of me is glad that growing up I had a negative body image. If I didn’t, and simply accepted myself for how I looked, I  probably would never have adopted healthier eating and lifestyle habits and would’ve continued spiraling down a path of fried chicken nuggets and scrumptious curly fries. For me personally, being overweight wasn’t difficult just because in society’s eyes something was wrong with me, but more so because I felt  unhealthy – moderate exercise really exhausted me and I’d often have jolts of pain that felt like the  beginning of clogged arteries even though I didn’t know it at the time.  

It might seem fun to eat unhealthy food frequently, and maybe it is in the short-term, but there’s a lot of pain and difficulties that can easily outweigh (yes, pun intended) the ephemeral joy. Over time, as I slowly adjusted my diet to stop feeling so unhealthy my relationship with food improved and I no longer relied  on it for comfort. That process was really difficult and I had to unlearn the bad habits and dependencies I developed over the span of many years. For those of you contemplating a similar transition my advice is to start small, slowly replacing processed fats and sugar with natural fats and sugar from food that you  enjoy eating such that over time your body finds unhealthy food undesirable, which is exactly what happened with me. I eventually reached a point where eating fried and processed food felt nasty and I avoided it at all costs. To this day I actively resist eating fried or fast food and stick to a diet high in vegetables & fruit, high protein, and low carb. After improving my diet and losing even more weight, I vowed to never be fat again and to treat my body like a temple. Unfortunately, even as the weight  gradually began to disappear the insecurity I developed around my body image did not. No matter how  much weight I lost or how my body began to look, I kept feeling that I didn’t look good enough and didn’t live up to the expectations society had of me. 

These insecurities later manifested in college. I can barely recall my junior year and it wasn’t because I was sleep deprived. Enabled by the fraternity I joined and the almost manipulative drinking culture, I  would binge drink and blackout several times a week. Sure, it was lots of fun in the moment and to this day I don’t really regret those decisions, but the proverbial beer belly reared its ugly head. My breaking  point occurred when a close female friend casually remarked one day that I was looking chubby and need to lose weight. I felt that all the progress I had made with accepting my reformed body image and vowing to never be fat again vanished all within a single instant. Just like in high school, I decided to channel my anger and frustration at myself into self-improvement and started working out religiously. In parallel, I also gave up eating meat cold turkey as I strongly believed that all of life is interconnected and must be respected. By the time senior year ended, I had lost the beer belly I was so ashamed of and started to build lean muscle thanks to transitioning to a low carb / high protein vegetarian diet and hitting the gym at least 4 times a week. My relationship with food had completely transformed and I actively sought out healthier options that made me feel better and supported my more active lifestyle. Things were finally  looking up and I never wanted to look back.  

Fast forward a few years and I was back home in San Jose working at a startup with ample free time. Of course I’d continued working out frequently, finding deep satisfaction in pushing myself physically and lifting even heavier weights. I’d often get sore or experience weird muscle pains that led to short breaks and ice baths, but I’d just get back up and keep pushing harder – partly motivated by my body-related insecurities, never feeling satisfied with how I looked despite putting on more muscle, and realizing that  women found me attractive. That all came to a halt on a beautiful summer day in Yosemite. A few weeks  prior my college roommates and I planned a trip to Yosemite to take on the notorious Half Dome hike which claimed several lives and caused hundreds of accidents in the past fifteen years. The hike itself  wasn’t too crazy – 17 miles roundtrip with 4,800 feet of elevation gain, fairly do-able for folks like me who  hike regularly and like to push themselves. Our initial plan was to wake up in the wee hours of the morning  to start the trek to beat the rising heat and crowds of people that flock to the trail each year, but we encountered a ton of traffic on the route there and ended up reaching camp near midnight. Faced with a  difficult decision of sleeping for three hours before embarking or hitting the trail immediately with no rest, we chose to test our luck and hike in pitch darkness with no rest. Hindsight is always 20/20 and this case is no different. Two of my friends injured their feet landing on rocks at weird angles due to the low  visibility, but despite the injuries and exhaustion we all pushed forward.  

I’m thankful that we successfully traversed the treacherous cables and reached the summit, taking in the magnificent views. But the trouble started after we went back to camp, ate our weight in pizza, and passed out for the night. I woke up to a strange sensation and hoped it was a dream. I couldn’t move my neck. In that moment I was filled with sheer terror; would I ever be able to move my neck again? Did I have a permanent disability? What did I do to myself? Why did I push myself to the extreme? After pounding Motrin and surviving the car ride back home, I shared my experience with my physician who immediately  recommended I get scanned by an MRI machine to figure out what the heck was going on. While that experience itself was torture having suffered from claustrophobia my entire life – imagine being stuck in  a metal coffin with no space around you bombarded with shitty EDM sounds – receiving the results was more painful. I had somehow managed to herniate a disc in my cervical spine (my neck), and the damage would never be undone. There was no treatment beyond medicating the pain away and some physical therapy.  

To this day it remains a mystery why I herniated the disc. I knew a bunch of other people my age who were on a fitness and weightlifting grind who didn’t experience any of these issues. It likely was the result of pushing myself to my limits with improper weightlifting techniques combined with shitty luck. Looking back, I’d like to say I wish I didn’t pursue physical fitness with such an extreme devotion, but I really do enjoy pushing myself and tackling greater challenges. Even if I hadn’t herniated a disc at that point in time, it likely would have happened to me doing some other intense activity eventually. Initially, living with a herniated disc wasn’t so bad. While working out, hiking, and sitting down for extended periods of time caused some discomfort, it never prevented me from living the life I wanted and pursuing my physical  fitness goals. Fueled by my body-related insecurities and desire to push myself, I kept exercising intensely and took on even more extreme hikes like Mt. Whitney (23 mile roundtrip with 6,000 feet in elevation gain over a single day). Sadly, things got worse from there. After completing another arduous hike with friends in Hawaii, I felt another weird sensation – a shooting, numbing pain going down my left arm which  I never experienced before. The strange pain also didn’t go away when I took painkillers, which alarmed me even further. I decided to cut my trip short and head back home to figure out what happened and  took yet another MRI.  

What had happened? I herniated yet another disc, right below the previous one and the weird sensation I was feeling was actually nerve pain caused by the discs impinging nerves near my neck that travel down the shoulder and all the way to the hand. Unlike last time, the pain I felt in general was very high and even sitting down for just 15 minutes was excruciatingly painful. I could no longer run, lift weights, or live the active lifestyle I had become accustomed to. In lieu of those activities, I’ve started swimming more regularly – although it’s difficult to find open and heated pools these days – walking daily, and hiking less intense trails to stay fit. Meditating daily, getting lost in fascinating books, and playing the trumpet are my new ways to destress. Despite all that, it’s still painful watching the muscle mass I had worked so hard to build and maintain over the years slowly fade away as my muscles stopped being nurtured and used. Even when I thought I had reached a place of body positivity, in those ensuing weeks and months, I realized that I never really did. My extreme workouts were partly motivated by never feeling satisfied with how I looked and still feeling like I didn’t live up to the idealized image of the male figure. Losing my muscle mass reignited insecurities and shame that I worked so hard to forget.  

While my disability isn’t noticeable to others externally and I’m spared from others’ judgment, I couldn’t help but feel like I was broken inside permanently and my body failed me. I yet again hated myself and my body for failing to meet society’s expectations. Truthfully, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I was exposed to a different way of thinking about myself and body positivity more broadly. I became exposed to the idea on a Facebook social media post about body positivity, that one’s weight is not a reflection of one’s health and being overweight in particular isn’t such a bad thing from an attractiveness, societal, or  health perspective. This broke every belief I had – strongly feeling that being fat is unhealthy, unappealing, and should not be celebrated. After reflecting and discussing with others, I realized that health is a scientific concept and one’s weight does not accurately reflect health – people who may look  overweight might be in good overall health, as paradoxical as it seems. A great example of this is NFL linebackers who typically weigh over 200 pounds and seem very unhealthy in terms of their body shape and size but are way more physically fit than the average person. I also realized that being overweight itself is not an issue to be worried about in isolation; it is the issues associated with being overweight that are the real causes of worry like having clogged arteries, difficulty sleeping, diabetes, etc. In that same vein of thought, I realized that having a body shape, or in my case a body structure, that does not conform with societal norms does not make one any less beautiful, whole, or healthy either. My eyes had been opened to the importance of self-love and body positivity, and how the way we view ourselves has a direct correlation with how we think and behave.  

Last year I decided to make a big change. I adopted an entirely plant-based diet and no longer eat anything related to animals such as honey, ice cream, and pizza. The beautiful thing about being plant-based is it’s actually difficult to eat unhealthy – unless your diet mostly consists of carbs like bread or pasta or vegan junk food like plant-based ice cream and burgers. I’ve been feeling higher energy, don’t have food coma, or crash when I eat, and noticed I was losing weight as well. But being plant-based doesn’t guarantee one won’t gain weight, as I painfully found out after a few months of quarantine when I went home and the first thing my mom said to me was “Beta you’re looking heavier, you put on some weight”.  

Since experiencing that initial epiphany, I have tried to continue practices in self-love and body positivity. I will admit that it is not always easy, and progress is not always linear. I still struggle with moments, days, and weeks of low self-esteem and body negativity. I still check myself out in the mirror every chance I get  and obsessively focus on how my hair looks. I still pinch my belly and love handles, wishing they would  shrink and disappear. I still find moments where I feel physically damaged and hate my body for not being able to do simple things that most of us take for granted like sitting in a car for an hour, bending down to pick things up off the floor, or playing with young children and dogs. While changing my behavior and  mindset is certainly a work in progress, what has been encouraging is that in those situations I remind myself that I am beautiful, do not need to look or participate in certain activities to feel so, and that beauty comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes.  

Whenever I find myself feeling insecure and down on myself because of my body, which inevitably happens and I’ve accepted won’t ever stop, I first accept how I’m feeling and don’t try to fight it. I try to introspect and figure out where these feelings are coming from, and remind myself that the only person’s  opinion that really matters here is my own. What also helps is having a generally positive attitude, which I was able to forge through the difficult times I’ve endured and the realization that dwelling on the negative is a fruitless endeavor. Something else that helps when I feel down is the genuine acceptance that some things in life including negative feelings are out of my control and I should instead focus on controlling the controllables – my actions, behavior and mindset. The power of a positive mindset lies not in being happy all the time, but in preventing one from falling into spirals of negativity.  

If I could travel back in time and talk to my younger self, I’d try to convey that it’s great to want to adopt  a healthier lifestyle but to be cognizant of what is motivating me to do so. I’d also share that while pushing  oneself is a great trait, it’s also wonderful to accept how you look at any point in time and find yourself  beautiful even if how you appear doesn’t match society’s notions of beauty. I’d tell myself that while Ash Ketchum and other Shōnen protagonists are amazing, I should simply aspire to be the best version of  myself, flaws and all.” -Rohit

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.

Thankful – At What Cost?

It’s that time of the year again – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. I, like many others, don’t really think twice about correlating Thanksgiving with the sales and deals that come the day after. It’s ironic how a holiday that is meant for people to be grateful and thankful for what and who they have is followed by the biggest sales of the year. People camping out in line for malls and stores hours before opening, being glued to the computer / phone watching the seconds count down so you can add that item to your cart before it sells out, browsing around the internet or store and realizing, “I don’t really need this… but it’s on sale!” I have conflicting feeling about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, who can relate?

Growing up, my parents weren’t really big on Black Friday shopping. They didn’t like the crowds, bad traffic, fighting for parking spots, and didn’t want us spending our money on things we really didn’t need. Black Friday is usually when people try to get their Christmas shopping done in 1 day so they get more bang for their buck. My parents didn’t think it was worth the hassle, and with how many people we have on both sides of the family, it would be an all day event that they were not down for. But some years, my sisters and I wanted to experience the Black Friday madness. And each time we would participate, my dad would say, “All for what? A Sale that’s just basically taking off the tax? It’s not worth it!” As he angrily maneuvered the car from people walking stupidly. And in the moment he would swear that if the next year we wanted to shop, he wouldn’t be driving. But we’d somehow convince him the next year anyways.

It’s funny because most of the time I went out on Black Friday, I never really bought anything. I remember there was one year, I want to say I was a freshman in high school, but I might have still been in middle school. Anyways, we participated in Black Friday shopping, and my sister and I were roaming around Nina’s. May I remind you, at this point in my life, my main income came from birthday and Christmas money. My birthday is in February, so let’s just say my broke ass didn’t have that much money to spend. And because of this, I had to choose wisely what I decided to buy. I’ve always held back from buying things because I feared I’d find something else and not have enough money. But by this time, we were nearing the end of our route. We have gone around the mall and I honestly didn’t find anything I really liked. I felt pressured to buy something for the sake of “I went out on Black Friday.” I felt so pressured, and was in desperate need of clothes that my dumbass bought something at full price. I remember that top being like…. $27.99. That was a lot of money for unemployed me.

I remember when we all met back in the car, I told my parents and sisters that I bought a top…. that was full price…. and they all unanimously looked at me like, “bruh.” I then got the lecture of how I don’t need to buy something if I don’t really like it, how I should save my money, and make better choices with spending, etc etc. At the time I thought it was annoying. But deep down, I knew I only bought something because I felt the need to do it. Like, my ass woke up hella early, my dad drove in this traffic, I was sweating in the mall with the crowds, I was not about to walk out of the mall empty handed. I wanted something to show for it. It’s crazy that knowing it’s the “day” to shop makes you feel pressured to spend your money.

I appreciate that my parents taught me the value of money because I feel like it humbled me as an adult. Growing up, I didn’t have the latest shoes, clothes, or gadgets. I went to Catholic school and had a uniform I wore everyday, with the same black shoes from Payless. I was 25 years old when I first purchased / owned my first pair of Jordan’s (Yes, just earlier this year). It’s not that my parents didn’t have it like that, but that they didn’t prioritize name brand items. Because once you buy a name brand item for 1 kid, you have to do it for all 3. Our parents would buy us shoes from Footlocker once a year, where we really got to pick which one we wanted. I would take that opportunity to finally get some Nike’s.

Obviously when you’re in 6th grade you wanna look cool and rock the trending shit. And if we wanted something that we didn’t need, we would have to save up our birthday, Christmas, and allowance money to get it. Our parents didn’t just buy us things just because we wanted it. We would have to save up our money, or earn it by getting good grades. I remember I would splurge if there was a school dance, or free dress day where I didn’t have to wear my uniform. I would literally try to buy name brand things, or stuff that was in style to look cool. Yes, full body cringe, I know. I remember getting a simple South Pole shirt that just said “SP” in gold, and dropping $30 (does that brand even exist anymore lol). But it really taught us the value of our money, because we had to save up for it and calculate if the purchase was worth it. It’s so much different when it’s your own money you’re spending – even if I didn’t earn the money and it was basically just gifted to me.

Because of this, I’ve learned to live without the name brand clothes, shoes, bags, etc. I learned to wait, and sometimes waiting meant that I realized I didn’t really want it anymore, or I just dropped the idea because I wasn’t willing to drop the money for it. I still wanted nice shit, but I knew my ass couldn’t afford it like that, so I made do with what I had. As I got / get older, I’m realizing the importance of living simple. It’s something I want to practice and be content with. Over the last year or 2, my priorities really shifted and I find myself trying to save up a lot more. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I regretted not saving my money and spending it on clothes / material things when I still didn’t “have it like that.” I have my days where I’m very content with my closet and wardrobe and think, “I really don’t need all this,” and then there are other times where I’m like, “It’s time for new clothes.” It’s like a constant struggle between wanting more and not wanting to give in to material things.

Like I said, I regretted not saving my money when I first started working. I was in my early 20’s, and suddenly I was worried about the future. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I was nowhere near buying a car. At this time reality hit, and I knew I couldn’t be spending my money the same way if I wanted a car, house, and other necessities in the near future. Changing jobs really helped me take that step forward in saving up money. And once I got a taste of not working for $10.50 Daly City minimum wage, I felt like I was making significant progress. For once, I had extra money to spend. Before that, I was literally on paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t even have to pay any bills. My bi-weekly check was just enough to eat out a couple of times with friends. Straight up.

But I didn’t want to lose myself in buying material things just because I could. I rarely buy clothes, and if I do, they have to be on sale. So I know a good deal when I see it. That’s part of the reason why I’m so conflicted with Black Friday and Cyber Monday – I want to live a simple life, but at the same time I’m human and want nice shit. And if I’m going to get nice shit, that shit better be on sale, because my cheap ass isn’t paying full price if I don’t have to. And in my mind I just teeter-totter between knowing I got a a good deal, but feeling so vain because I don’t “need” the items I’m buying. I know that I work hard for my money, and buying myself a little gift here and there (especially if it’s on sale) is not a big issue. I just don’t want it to be the only way I feel good about myself. But since COVID-19, so many people and friends of mine have opened businesses and side hustles. It’s exciting to see them flourish into business owners and seeing friends and acquaintences support each other. Especially with COVID-19 going on, I love seeing small businesses thriving, knowing that my purchase helps an actual person / family instead of a corporation that already has a lot of money. So, this Black Friday / Christmas, really think of your community and how you can shop at small businesses to support your friends, friends of friends, or just someone in your area.

And I’m not saying I don’t like buying myself things, because let’s be real, buying things impulsively can feel really good. It gets you on a high sometimes. Just this weekend I had seen that J.Cole’s Puma’s, RS Dreamers were back in stock in all colors. I love J.Cole, this blog is named after his song, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on them for a while. Suddenly I wanted them all. And I didn’t care at what price. I wanted to support my favorite rapper, and I didn’t know if they would sell quick. The struggle of making the decision to buy them all now while they’re in stock, or wait until Black Friday where they can possibly be on sale but could also possibly be sold out. I bought 2 out of the 5 pairs, and felt good about my purchase. All the while, I’m messaging my best friend, another J.Cole fanatic, about it. He’s all salty because he can’t fit a little boy’s shoe like myself, and has to wait and pay a lot more for a men’s size. He did his research and saw that the same shoes I just bought were $10 and $30 cheaper on another shoe website, and on top of that gave me his military discount. I was gonna say “fuck it, I already placed the order,” until we did the math and realized I could get a 3rd pair for about the same price I just paid for. I ended up getting 3 pairs of the 5 RS Dreamers, for way cheaper than my first initial purchase (which I’m returning). I got basically a 3rd pair for free and saved $10. I felt ecstatic. I was in such a high, and felt good about saving money for something that meant a lot to me and something I’ve been wanting to get. I didn’t feel guilty because I desperately wanted them all and got them at a steal price.

But something I’ve always been taught is to not spend money I don’t have. And that’s where Black Friday and Cyber Monday gets dangerous. Thankfully, I’m a scaredy-cat that is impulsive, but not that impulsive. I’ll never put something on my card that I know I can’t afford. But for some people, that is not the case. What adds to my dislike and negative feelings towards big sales on holidays is that people feel the need to spend money they don’t have. The need to get the latest shoes, clothes, and electronics, at the cost of what? Just to post on the ‘gram and make it look like you have it like that? No thanks. To some, I might sound like a hater. It’s none of my business – what people do with their money doesn’t concern me. And that’s true. But I think it’s worth noting that people go into serious debt by spending money they don’t have, just to play the part they want people to see, just to look stylish and boujee, and just to front like they got it like that… for what?

Your designer clothes and shoes don’t mean anything if your priorities are all fucked up to obtain them. And holidays like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, just want us to focus on what we don’t have and what we can buy. All the while it is pushing the lesson of being grateful, thankful, and content with what you have in life. These “holidays” make big corporations richer, and it makes us consumers broke. The need to buy and spend to prove love, companionship, and appreciation ain’t it. To spend money you don’t have to uphold a tradition and holiday makes no sense, and takes away the true meaning of being thankful. And this is part of the reason why so many people have a twisted fantasy of what “love” is. Love isn’t the amount of designer gifts recieved, it’s not about matching clothes, shoes, and what you can get from each other material wise.

Material things can’t buy happiness – we’ve heard that time and time again. The truth is, I want to live a simple life, detached from any worldly possessions, but I’m still human. And I find myself in these cycles where I don’t spend on things I don’t need, and then out of nowhere I will ball out on something or some things. And in the moment it feels good. Buying things for yourself feels good. But it never fails at the end I get buyers remorse. I think of how vain I’m being, especially when I splurge out of the blue. At times I found that I was just buying things to make myself feel better. It’s different when you’re buying yourself something for an accomplishment, or because you truly want it, but it’s another thing to buy stuff for that instant gratification, and shortly after feel nothing. I start thinking of how there are people in the world that don’t have enough food, don’t have a home, clean water, etc. And I think to myself, did I really need that though?

That’s part of the reason why I have conflicting feelings with Black Friday and holiday sales. It sheds light on the ugly parts of society – the part that only thinks of self, material goods, and appearance. And it also sheds light on those parts of me. I love me a good deal, and I’m the kind of person that does no shopping throughout the whole year and balls out on certain times of the year, like Black Friday, where I know I can get things mad cheap. I do think it’s unfortunate that holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are the times (and almost cues) to spend your money, and if you don’t it’s almost seen as weird and anti-holiday. Being thankful for what you have and who you have in your life shouldn’t come with a cost.