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.

Krizhna & Zarnee’s Journey to Parenthood

Krizhna and Zarnee’s love story began in 2009 at Westmoor High. They started off as friends their first 2 years of high school, but that changed their junior year. They had multiple classes together and always seemed to be partnered up in English class. Krizhna explains how she always saw Zarnee as just a friend, until she realized that he was always there for her in her time of need, even if that meant venting about another guy. The best friends slowly but surely turned into lovers. This was the start of their journey. Zarnee made their relationship official on December 22, 2011 at the local Macy’s. His support and presence – what initally drew Krizhna to Zarnee – would be tested as they experienced parenthood together.

The couple was 4 years into their relationship when they decided to start their family in 2015. They were both barely 20 years old, and knew people would think they were insane to try to have a baby at that age, so they kept it hush hush. They didn’t have an exact reason as to why they wanted to start a family so bad, but knew it was something they both wanted. At the time, Zarnee and his family were not on talking terms, and at that point, he was out of their house for 2 years already. In a way, starting their own family would compensate for his broken family relationship.

During her break one day, Krizhna went to Target to purchase a pregnancy test. Her best friend and co-worker at the time, Kadigah, was actually the first person to know Krizhna was pregnant. She texted a photo of the positive pregnancy test to an ecstatic Zarnee who was doing laundry. Their joy was through the roof, and they were excited to finally have a family of their own.

“I think that was the first time in a while he was genuinely happy,” Krizhna reminisced.

When it came time to telling Krizhna’s family, she felt as though her mother’s intuition kicked in. Krizhna, her siblings, and her mom sat at the kitchen table in their grandma’s 1.5 bedroom inlaw. She explained that she had something to tell them, but her mom already knew before the words came out of her mouth. Her mom was disappointed but was still supportive. She had the “well, it already happened,” attitude and knew that being upset would not change the fact that she was pregnant. Her siblings were shocked, but followed their mom’s lead. They supported Krizhna’s decision to keep the baby and start a family.

At the time, her dad was still in the Philippines. Krizhna jokes that, “thank god,” her mom was the one that broke the news to him. He was astonished. His attitude was similar to her mom’s. He had told Krizhna, “Well, it’s there already. We just have to accept it.” However, her dad took matters into his own hands and messaged Zarnee on Facebook – asking if he had plans to marry his daughter. In the Filipino culture, being married before having a child is seen as an “essential” step. They felt the pressure of feeling like they “had to” get married, but decided that if they were going to get married, it would be on their terms, not because they feel forced into it. Having a baby on the way didn’t mean they had to rush into marriage to do it the “right way.”

The support from her parents and siblings made Krizhna feel more at ease. But she knew she had one more important person to tell on her side – her grandma. Krizhna, her mom, and siblings lived in her grandma’s home. She has always had high expectations for Krizhna, so when she told her she was pregnant, her grandma had no words. She said very little, sighed, and walked away. Her grandma expressed that she should’ve been focusing on going to college instead of starting a family. Her mom tried to talk to her grandma, telling her that there wasn’t much they could do, they have to just deal with it. Still, her grandma’s mind was made. She wanted Krizhna out of the house – she was so disappointed, she didn’t want to see her. So, she left, at about 2 months pregnant.

She moved in with Zarnee, who was living at a friend’s house. He got kicked out of his family home 2 years prior, and now, his pregnant girlfriend was in the same position. Surprisingly enough, Krizhna expected this reaction from her grandma. She knew that once she told her the news, she was most likely going to get kicked out. Zarnee and Krizhna stayed at their friend’s house a little over 2 months, but they quickly had to find their own place. They looked for different places that they could call home, but ended up getting scammed out of an apartment. Their only option was to live out of their car. They were homeless and living in their car for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was about 4-5 months pregnant.

She was never upset with her mom or siblings for not vouching for her to stay to her grandma. Krizhna’s mom was aware of their living situation, and tried her best to sneak them in when she could. Her grandma would work on the weekends and sleep over her patient’s house. On those days, Krizhna’s mom would sneak her and Zarnee into the house and let them sleep over. When it wasn’t the weekends and her grandma didn’t sleep over at her patient’s house, her mom would still find gaps for them to come to the house to shower or eat. From the beginning of their relationship, Krizhna’s family always liked Zarnee. Prior to the pregnancy, he would offer to drive her family places, and in return her mom would cook more food when she knew he would be coming over, knowing his rocky relationship with his own parents. So even though she got kicked out of the house when she told her grandma she was pregnant, her mom and siblings’ support was still apparent, and she was grateful.

Zarnee, on the other hand, was very conflicted about telling his family about the news. He was kicked out of his family home back in 2013. Their relationship was rocky and he didn’t even know if he should tell them that he was going to be a father. His parents also had high expectations for him, and when they realized that he didn’t want to take the college route, they were very upset. They didn’t agree with his life choices and resented him for not wanting to further his education. The route he decided to take was to work and eventually become a mechanic. Zarnee was confused as to why his family didn’t support his choices. He knew that telling his family that Krizhna was pregnant would be another can of worms, and honestly, he didn’t know if he wanted to open it up.

When Zarnee finally reached out to his parents with the news, they didn’t take it well. They voiced how disappointed they were that the two were going to be parents so young. After he broke the news to them and recieved that reaction, Zarnee and his parents both cut off communication. He didn’t reach out to them and they didn’t reach out to him. He tried his best to remain positive and not let his parents’ words get to him. When he and Krizhna got evicted from his friend’s house, they had nowhere to go. Living in the car with his pregnant girlfriend during cold Bay Area winter was getting the best of him. He knew he had to reach out to his family to ask for help.

He called and let them know that he and Krizhna got evicted from their previous living situation. Zarnee expected some sympathy, but instead, he was greeted on the phone with “I told you so’s.” His parents told him that he put himself in this situation by not listening them. It was “his fault” and he had to deal with it. Alone. Zarnee begged his family to take them in, especially since it was around the holidays during winter time. But his parent’s did not budge on their decision. They couldn’t stay at Krizhna’s grandma’s, they couldn’t stay at Zarnee’s friend’s, and now his parents refused to let them stay at their house as well. Zarnee couldn’t believe it. He felt so betrayed and hurt by his parents’ decision. With still nowhere to stay, they tried their best to remain positive.

“I couldn’t believe that my own parents were not concerned that me and my pregnant girlfriend were sleeping in the car,” Zarnee shared. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything right at that moment.”

On the days where Krizhna’s grandma was home and her mom couldn’t sneak her and Zarnee over, the couple would sleep in their car. When they would saved enough money, they would rent hotel rooms so they could sleep comfortably on a bed. Being homeless and expecting their first child put a lot of a stress on them. They really struggled to weather the storm – not only figuratively, but literally as well. The Bay Area winter was taking its toll on the already struggling couple with more rain and freezing nights.

Krizhna remembers January 18, 2016 to be a very rainy – at times even hailing – day. She and Zarnee were really happy to have a hotel room that night because it meant that she could rest and relax on an actual bed. That night, Krizhna started having intense stomach pains, which prompted Zarnee to call the nurse. This angered Krizhna since she was only 31 weeks pregnant. She knew that she had a handful of weeks left until she would deliver, and didn’t see the need to go to the hospital. But since he already called, they took the advice of the nurse and went to the hospital, straight to the Delivery Department.

When they got there, two nurses quickly admitted Krizhna in and wasted no time hooking her up to machines. She remembers being so confused because no one was really telling her what was wrong or what they were hooking her up to. To add to the confusion, she wasn’t asking many questions either. It was all happening so quickly. They waited at the hospital for a couple of hours because they were told that the high risk doctor wouldn’t be coming in until later. Krizhna dosed off, and a few hours later she was woken up by the doctor who informed her that she would have to be transferred to another hospital. Why? Because they didn’t have the proper equipment to deliver her 31 week old baby. They were in shock, a full term pregnancy is usually 37-40 weeks.

Krizhna was transferred to CPMC. And in her room was the isolette, the little plastic crib where they place new born babies. She asked her nurse if she was going to be giving birth anytime soon since the isolette was in the room. Her nurse confirmed that she indeed was going to be giving birth in a matter of days. Krizhna and Zarnee couldn’t believe it. And on January 22, 2016 – 3 days after being transferred to CPMC – they welcomed their first born, Reginald James.

Krizhna remembers how heartbroken she was. After giving birth to Reginald, she didn’t get to carry him. He went straight into the isolette and then to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Seeing Reginald in the NICU was tough. They remember he was so small and thin that they could see his bone structure. When he was born, he weighed 5 pounds, but he started to lose weight and got down to 2 pounds. The first two weeks of his life were the toughest. They didn’t know if Reginald would make it because he was losing so much weight.

“It was really tough,” Krizhna said. “We witnessed him become a needle bag, lose so much weight to where you could literally see his little tiny bones, to having a feeding tube because he didn’t know how to feed with a bottle.”

“The most challenging was seeing him in the incubator getting smaller and smaller,” Zarnee said recalling how he felt during Reginald’s stay in the NICU. “He had a feeding tube, IV, and a lot of monitors attached to him. There was one instance where he kept moving around too much that the IV wasn’t staying still. So the doctor told us that they had to give him a PICC line. They described it to us as a long thin needle that went from the tip of his finger through the arm to his heart. I remember being so worried…”

Reginald was in the NICU from January 22, 2016 to March 1, 2016. In that time, they got in contact with a social worker who was completely unaware that the couple was homeless and living out of their car. The social worker informed Zarnee and Krizhna that they could stay in one of the rooms in the hospital since that floor was vacant. This way, they could be closer to Reginald since his stay at the NICU would be prolonged, and Krizhna had to pump every 3 hours and supply him with food anyways. This way, they didn’t have to worry about the commute or not being by Reginald’s side. Without hesitation, they accepted the offer. Though the circumstances were unfortunate, they were just relieved that they had a bed to sleep on for the time being.

They stayed in the hospital room the whole time Reginald was in the NICU, about a month and a half. In that time, they really wondered what their next steps would be. Where were they going to live? They had a new born baby now, living in a car would not be ideal. Zarnee had just left his previous job, and Krizhna was on unpaid maternity leave. They felt like they were running out of options. It was when Krizhna’s mom asked her what their living situation was going to be once Reginald was discharged from NICU that made Krizhna realize she had no choice but to reach out to her grandma.

Krizhna knew that she had to put her pride and guilt to the side if she wanted a home for Reginald. She knew that enough time had passed, and that her grandma wasn’t that upset with her anymore. There were times before Reginald was born where her grandma visited her at the hospital, giving her food and checking in on her often. When Krizhna told Zarnee that she planned on asking her grandma if they could stay with her, he agreed. He knew that this was the best decision. And after a lengthy conversation with her grandma, she let Krizhna – and now Krizhna’s little family – know that they were welcome to stay at her house once Reginald was discharged. Krizhna’s grandma was not the only one with a change of heart. Zarnee’s parents brought Krizhna comfort food after she had delivered Reginald, and they were slowly on track to building a relationship again. Things were looking up.

With a roof over their heads, their son out of the NICU, and family bonds being rebuilt, Krizhna and Zarnee felt a weight lifted off their shoulders. They were so eager to start and have a family, and now here they were. Unfortunately, instead of feeling complete and happy, Krizhna felt the exact opposite. The day after Reginald was discharged from the NICU, she drowned herself in work. She remembers working 50+ hour weeks to avoid going home and spending time with her son. She didn’t know why she felt so distant and cold towards the baby she and Zarnee both planned for. So, she used work as a distraction.

Postpartum depression hit Krizhna hard. She felt immense guilt and directly responsible for Reginald being born premature. She blames herself for being under a lot of stress, especially because of being homeless, and taking on a new job at 6 months pregnant to make ends meet. Krizhna believes that it was her fault for why Reginald was not carried to term. He was born at 31 weeks and 5 days, Krizhna beats herself up over the fact that she had 9 more weeks to go. She remembers her last month of being pregnant, she was working double shifts almost everyday and doing a lot of physical work like carrying 30-50 pound boxes.

Krizhna remembers one night where she was so upset. She didn’t know exactly why she was irritated and upset, but all she knew was she wanted Zarnee out. Not fully understanding her emotions, she got so frustrated and took her emotions out on her little family. She told Zarnee to take Reginald and leave, stating that she wanted nothing to do with them. Instead of arguing back and being upset, Zarnee held her and let her cry it out. He was still the guy to be there for her and listen after all these years.

“That moment was when I knew I started a family with the right man,” Krizhna said.

It was confusing for Krizhna because she knew she loved Reginald, but a huge part of her felt like she didn’t want to be a part of his life because she caused him so much physical pain by not carrying him to term. She remembers that first month of his life over and over again in her head – how much he suffered, how scared they were, how helpless he was. And she really believed she was the main source and the one to blame for it all. She used work as a coping mechanism because if she worked more, she wouldn’t have to focus on the fact that she wasn’t bonding with her son, she wouldn’t have to see him, she wouldn’t be reminded of the guilt she felt. So Zarnee cared for Reginald for the first 5 months while she worked.

For the first 5 months of Reginald’s life, Krizhna felt no bond with him. It was really hard because she was still living under her grandma’s roof and being surrounded with family. She felt as though she had to put on a front for her family’s sake because depression is not something that is normalized in her family and her culture as well. There would be times where she would be crying about something that upset her or show that she was upset and her family would brush it off like it wasn’t a big deal. Having people treat her postpartum depression like it didn’t exist or was something not to be upset about really bothered her. She knew her family was supportive of her, but she didn’t feel comfortable to open up about her inner turmoil. Krizhna knew they just wouldn’t get it.

There were many times where Krizhna really felt like seeking professional help for her postpartum depression. But she was terrified. Her worst fear was that they would end up taking Reginald away from them because they’d probably deem her “unfit” to care for a child, and then send her off to a mental hospital. She didn’t feel a connection with him and wanted nothing to do with him, but at the same time she knew that if they were to take him away, she would lose it. Looking back, Krizhna knows that her feelings were in conflict with one another. But she wasn’t going to take that chance of Reginald possibly being taken away.

It wasn’t until Reginald was 5 months old that Krizhna started to bond with him. She remembers the event that changed it all. Reginald was about 5 months old and was really sick. He had a high fever and a boil on his bottom. Zarnee and Krizhna had to take him to the emergency room where they cut his skin open to remove the abscesses from the boil. Reginald was crying like she had never seen him cry before. She could tell that he was in pain by how hysterically he was crying and clenching onto her and Zarnee. Seeing him like that made Krizhna’s heart break.

“Seeing him in that position made me realize how much I love him and how I would do anything to take away his pain,” Krizhna said remembering that emergency room visit. “Ever since that day, I grew closer to Reginald and started appreciating the fact that even though he was born early, he is alive and healthy.”

A little after Reginald’s first birthday, the couple had startling news. She was pregnant again. Krizhna was on the pill briefly, but stopped because she was getting bad side effects. She was not ready for another baby. She called her best friend, Karina, and told her about the news. She cried and vented out her frustrations and worries. After the call, she showed Zarnee the positive pregnancy test. He was so shocked that he didn’t know what to say. Krizhna explained to him that she was not ready to have a second child so soon, and she didn’t know if she wanted to keep it. Zarnee supported her in whatever decision she chose, but they both slept on it. The next morning, she still didn’t make a decision.

It actually took a couple of days of going back and forth on the idea of keeping the baby or not. A few days after finding out she was pregnant, they finally came to a conclusion. They were going to follow through with the second pregnancy. What made them sway in that favor? The two of them thought about their first born and how much he means to them. They couldn’t picture what life would be like without him and they loved him so much. Reginald was the best thing that has ever happened to them, so they knew that even though they weren’t ready, they’ll get through it as long as they have each other.

They were both hesitant to tell their families about the news. Not because they thought they wouldn’t be supportive, but because of how her first pregnancy went and how recent it was. When Krizhna finally told her family about the second pregnancy they didn’t react the same way as her first. Her intuition was right. Instead, they voiced how concerned and worried they were about how the pregnancy would go, given that Reginald was born premature. Little did they know that this time around, it would be worse.

Krizhna and Zarnee describe the following events that took place:

 “I had my first prenatal appointment on February 10, 2017 where we had an abdominal ultrasound and saw a healthy heartbeat. Zarnee and I were so happy and relieved. Our doctor told us that my due date was October 5, 2017 and I was even more happy because our baby’s birthday would be close to mine and Reginald’s birthday is close to Zarnee’s and so we felt like it was all meant to be. We started talking to our doctor about what I would do differently this time around to prevent another preterm delivery and we even started guessing what the gender of our baby may be. We were hoping for a girl.

After our ultrasound, we came to accept and embrace our pregnancy, we were filled with joy. I couldn’t wait for my bump to grow and take lots of pictures, have a baby shower – since we didn’t get the chance to have it when we were pregnant with Reginald, for Reginald to be a big brother, to give birth – I was ecstatic.

On February 22 or 23 I believe, I was working one of my double shifts and I had cramps that felt very familiar and I knew something was wrong but I disregarded the pain hoping that if doing so, it would go away? I don’t know, I really don’t know why I had that mentality. I remember it was so painful that I was in the middle of what I was doing and I had to hold my stomach in a fetal position. The pain lasted about 5 minutes. I had a follow up appointment on the 27th and yet had another abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound, but this ultrasound was different from the first one… we no longer saw the healthy heartbeat of our baby… Our doctor didn’t know what or how to say that the baby may not have been alive anymore so he gave us the option of going for a second opinion to see what is going on. I knew right then and there we had lost our baby but Zarnee had hopes so we went ahead and got another ultrasound on March 1 and received the same devastating news. I was numb when she told me that there was no more heartbeat. I felt like I lost a part of me that day.

We went back to our doctor in which he told us that we would need to do a procedure called Dilation & curettage (D&C) to remove whatever part of my baby is in me. He told me that the procedure would take no longer than 30-40 minutes including the rest time. Crazy how fast it is to remove something so precious from me like that. He also gave us the option of bleeding out until clots come out but it would have to come out within a week otherwise I’ll get an infection. He let us know to think over it and call the office back to let them know what our decision was. I didn’t think about it. I told him that I made up my mind and proceeded with the D&C. I didn’t want to bleed out by myself and go through more trauma than what I was already going through. I don’t think I could’ve handled that. He scheduled the appointment for March 3 and he prescribed me 2-3 medications in which I believe one of them was to soften the cervix to make it easier to vacuum whatever is left. I was numb, I was broken.

March 3rd we went in to do a D&C. I was drugged from whatever pill I took but I still felt what was going on and I still knew what was going on but I put up a front in front of Zarnee to distract him from what I was going through because I knew that it broke him seeing me like that. My doctor had come in and I remember seeing this vacuum like machine that he brought in and my stomach dropped. I knew it was time. I knew it was time for me to let go of something that has not been there for a while. I knew it was time. He asked me if I was ready and I said yes but deep inside I wasn’t. I wanted so bad for a miracle to happen but I knew that I was hoping for something that is not going to happen. He did his thing with the vacuum and I remember holding onto Zarnee’s hand so tight because it was painful. I felt the suction of the vacuum and I don’t think the physical pain I felt compared to the emotional trauma I suffered.

Right after the procedure, my doctor said that I was no longer pregnant and everything was out. I died inside hearing that. I did not know what heartbreak felt like until I heard that I was no longer pregnant. I laid in the patient bed for 5 minutes and left. I cried hysterically in the car and we went home and I cried some more. I think I cried for about a week straight. Something in me that day died along with my baby.”

“After hearing our doctor say that there wasn’t a heartbeat anymore, I was very hopeful that there would still be one and that he was wrong. I kept telling myself and Krizhna that there was (a heartbeat). I tried to assure her and myself that from the time we left to the next appointment.

When we got the second opinion, my heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I felt like I got played. I felt crushed. It’s like, there was just a heartbeat and now you’re telling me there isn’t a heartbeat anymore? How could that be? I don’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. When Krizhna got the D&C, it made it so much more surreal that our baby is gone. Dead.

Seeing the doctor use the vacuum to suck out whatever was left of our baby was heartbreaking but what was even more heartbreaking was seeing Krizhna laying down there, sad because there was nothing she could do. Her body is practically being invaded by this tool and I was scared of what could happen to her. When the procedure was done, I didn’t want to leave her side or get her out of my sight because I felt that the least I could do was be there for her after what she had just gone through. That was probably one of the worst days I’ve ever had to this day.”

Krizhna was 4 weeks along when her pregnancy test read positive. When she miscarried, she was about 6-8 weeks pregnant. When Krizhna and Zarnee got out of the procedure, the first person she called was her mom. She cried hysterically on the phone saying, “I lost my baby, I lost my baby.” Her mom advised her to come home. Zarnee also called his parents in the car and when his parents answered, Zarnee lost it. He broke down crying, and they comforted their son saying that everything will be okay.

Krizhna knew that her mom didn’t know what to say or how to comfort her. It was the same with Zarnee’s parents. Nobody knew what to say to make them feel better, and honestly, nothing they could say would make them feel better anyways. By the time they came home, the household was aware of what just happened and they were welcomed with homemade soup from her grandma. Her mom and grandma cared for Reginald all day while she locked herself in her room. She knew that taking care of Reginald while she detached from the world in her room was her family’s way of comforting her. She couldn’t talk about her postpartum depression, and now she found herself in a position where she couldn’t talk about her miscarriage either.

After the miscarriage, Zarnee and Krizhna’s relationship was on the rocks. They were both hurting, but didn’t know how to communicate it or comfort one another. She felt like Zarnee wasn’t hurting from the loss of their child because he wasn’t reacting the same way as her. She acknowledges that Zarnee was trying so hard to understand what she was feeling, but she kept pushing him away. Every conversation seemed to have the same outcome. Whenever they talked, it would turn into an argument, and all of a sudden the miscarriage would be brought up, it would always be followed by silence and tears.

“I don’t know how we got through it,” Krizhna said. “I think it took us a while to be a team again.”

Zarnee handled the miscarriage by going back to work and taking care of Reginald. Having a 1 year old kept him busy, and it also kept him sane. Krizhna recalls only seeing Zarnee cry about the miscarriage once, and that was after the procedure. To her, it seemed like Zarnee didn’t care because he would only talk about it when she would breakdown. She sees now that maybe it was for the best that he reacted that way, because if they were both a “mess,” they couldn’t care for Reginald. Zarnee saw Reginald as his strength during this difficult time.

“Having him kept me sane,” Zarnee admitted. “He made me want to fight and get through it… Even though he doesn’t know it, he really saved me when I was going through it.”

After their miscarriage in 2017, Zarnee and Krizhna started trying again in 2018. And to their surprise, they were pregnant again in April. However, in a span of 3 days, they found out that she was pregnant and then she wasn’t. She knew she was pregnant so she went to the doctor. They did a blood test on her twice to confirm she was pregnant. Her HCG levels were dropping, which meant she was miscarrying. She was exhausted. However, the 2nd miscarriage didn’t effect her as bad because she didn’t get to hear the heart beat, and she wasn’t as far along. But, it did still hurt them. They were discouraged and didn’t want to even talk about trying again.

But a year later in June 2019, she found out she was pregnant again for the 4th time. When she found out she was pregnant, she took a pregnancy test everyday until her 8 week appointment. That was her way to make sure she was still pregnant, and it brought her and Zarnee peace of mind. They were so excited to be pregnant again, but didn’t want to show it. They were very hesitant with being excited, in fear that they would miscarry again. They just didn’t want to have false hope after everything they’ve been through.

Because of their past experiences with miscarrying, they only told a handful of people they were expecting the first 3 months of being pregnant. Krizhna’s mindset was : if I miscarry again atleast I only have to explain it to only a couple of people. But when she reached 16 weeks, she knew she was in the clear to let the secret out of the bag! Now they were beginning to get excited again after 2 years of back to back heart break.

This pregnancy was so different than when she was pregnant with Reginald. Krizhna was nauseous all day everyday, hated the smell of fried food, and was exhausted all the time. She had to take progesterone, a pill that makes sure the baby attaches, and take it vaginally. They would go to bi-weekly appointments to make sure that the baby was okay, given her history of pregnancy. This time around, every little pain she had, she would go to the ER. She was taking no chances. Zarnee was very over protective and made sure that Krizhna was taking it easy and eating all the right foods.

On January 10, 2020, Krizhna was at work when she started to have really bad contractions. She managed to finish her shift and went home. That night, her contractions were so bad that Zarnee took her to the hospital. They informed her that she was only 1 cm dialted, and sent her back home to rest. The next day, her contractions intensified. She really couldn’t take it anymore and her parents couldn’t stand to see her in pain. By 8 PM she was at the hospital and Zarnee met her there coming from work. She was 6 cm dialted, and they informed her that she would be giving birth in the next 24 hours. She was only 34 weeks pregnant and had another month to go.

On January 12, 2020, Mia Alea-Luna was born. This time around she got to hold Mia before they put her in the isolette and to the NICU. Krizhna remembers how much more smaller Mia was compared to Reginald, and this made them worry. Having their 2nd born in the NICU made them nervous. And this time, they didn’t have the housing that came with Reginald’s NICU stay. It was harder because once she was discharged, she would have to pick up Zarnee from work at night and they would visit Mia. Reginald wasn’t allowed in the NICU, so they had to wait until he was asleep to visit as well. Fortunately, Mia only stayed in the NICU for 2 weeks.

Krizhna still experienced postpartum depression after her 2nd child was born. But this time was different. With Reginald, she didn’t want to be around him or connect with him. But with Mia, she was very overprotective. She believes this shift happened because she felt so guilty about how she felt after Reginald was born, that she didn’t want to act like that towards Mia. And it wasn’t because she loved Mia more, but because she knew that Reginald was old enough to witness everything. She didn’t want him to see a disconnect between her and his new sister, in fear that it would traumatize him. And most importantly, she sought help. She sees her therapist once a month and is taking medication for her depression and anxiety.

Their parenthood journey has not been easy. They have faced a lot of heartbreak together. Krizhna and Zarnee try to celebrate the first miscarriage by just being together as a family for what would’ve been the baby’s due date. They don’t celebrate the 2nd miscarriage because they never knew what the due date was since she miscarried very early on. 2 years after her 1st miscarriage, Reginald would always tell Krizhna that he would see his brother. There would be times that he would be alone in the room saying “I’m playing with my brother,” and instead of being scared, it comforts Krizhna, knowing that their baby is still around them. They never got to find out what the gender was either.

“Take all the time you need to mourn your loss,” Krizhna advises other parents who have miscarried. “It is more common than you think it is. You are not alone.. even though it feels like it right now you’re not alone. The loss of a child you never got to meet and hold is something you’ll carry with you for a very long time and  although it’ll hurt being reminded of what happened, you are resilient. You will get back up again. As each day passes it’ll hurt less than the day before but the sadness when you’re reminded of it is going to be there so do whatever you need to do to heal – whether it be celebrating the anniversary of the miscarriage or the due date or talking to someone who shares the same experience. There’s always a rainbow at the end of the storm.”

And Zarnee and Krizhna definitely got their rainbow at the end of their storm. They are now raising their beautiful children together in Zarnee’s childhood home. Once Mia was born, they desperately looked for houses that they could call home. There just wasn’t enough room in Krizhna’s grandma’s 1.5 bedroom inlaw. Zarnee knew how important it was for Krizhna to have her family with her, so they searched for houses that fit everyone’s needs. They toured about 10 houses in a span of 1 month, but nothing felt like “the one.”

One day, after touring yet another home, Zarnee went to his parents’ house to pick something up. He updated them that they still didn’t find a house. It was then that his parents asked if they wanted to live in the old family house, and even extended the offer to Krizhna and her family to come along. Zarnee couldn’t believe what his parents were telling him. He gladly accepted the offer, and went home to tell Krizhna and her whole family. He was so happy that his kids would have enough room to run around and for each member of the family to have a room and bed to sleep on, rather than the floor. Zarnee loves the fact that his kids get to grow up in the same house he grew up in.

“To this day, I thank my parents every time I leave their house of the blessing they gave us,” Zarnee explained.

Zarnee and Krizhna have been through hell and back with each other. They never expected that their journey to parenthood would have so many twists and turns. They mended family relationship, they went through heartbreak, they witnessed their children in the NICU, they went from homeless to home owners, and never gave up on each other even in their darkest times. Their main focus now is to raise their children together and be there for them. They embrace every part of their journey to parenthood because it gave them their most precious gifts – Reginald and Mia.

Money In Your Palm Don’t Make You Real

“Money doesn’t buy you happiness,” is a phrase we are all familiar with. That’s a saying that has been engraved in my mind since I was a little kid. And I’m sure you’ve heard that saying since you were a lil ol’ lad as well. This saying was much simpler when I was younger, and ironically, the older I get, the meaning behind this saying starts to get blurred. In my opinion, I feel like it takes a lifetime to understand, practice, and actually believe this quote.

Growing up, we are taught that money doesn’t buy happiness. But as we get older, that phrase quickly turns into, “_______ doesn’t pay the bills!” At a young age we are taught to follow our heart and dreams. We are taught to stay true to ourselves and at the end of the day true happiness is all that matters. Then out of nowhere, it’s as if our main focus has to be money, money, money. Why and when does the conversation switch?

Somewhere down the road, we realize that talent alone won’t help you make a living. You have to be smart about what moves you make, and what route you decide to take with your talents. Suddenly, we outgrow the “money doesn’t buy you happiness” phase, and all of a sudden making and saving money is top priority. We grow older and start to realize that shit costs money, and without money, you can’t do shit. It takes money to start your dream.

I’m at a weird time in my life. I’m 25 years old. I go on social media and I am bombarded with updates of old classmates and acquaintences. Some people are getting engaged, some are married and on their X number of kids, some are graudating school, some are just starting school, some are still kickin’ it like high schoolers, and some are on a completely different route. And for the record – that is all okay. I feel like around 25 years old you look at those you grew up with and realize, “holy shit, we are all on some pretty different paths.” Some are starting families, some are still living at home, some don’t know wtf we’re doing with our lives.

But around my 20’s is when I started to see a shift. And at 25 I can see it more clearly. I am currently at the age where money and salary is starting to be a big deal. Some people have been graduated from college for a few years now. Everyone is moving on, everyone is getting their entry level positions, everyone is hopefully moving up the ladder. And now, everyone wants the money. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but with the help of social media, people amplify their desire for a bigger check. Especially living in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive places to live in the world, making good money is necessary if you want to stay in the area.

6 figures is what everyone desires around here. That’s the goal. 6 figures in the Bay Area means you made it, but most importantly, it means you’re not struggling to make it and live here. Straight out of college, that is the dream – to be successful and make 6 figures. And to those that have already achieved that, I salute you. Good shit! In my opinion – and I know there are people that may disagree – I would rather silently manifest that bigger check while my moves and monetary accomplishments stay quiet. Though, there are some that will exclaim from the mountain tops that they finally got that 6 figure paying job. There’s nothing wrong with either decision.

However, I was raised to never ask about how much someone gets paid, never ask to borrow money, never give money, just all things money related was off limits. I was brought up on the notion that other people’s money is none of my business, and my money shouldn’t be their business either. I was taught to never flex or brag about what I got. In fact, if anything, I was taught to hide / act like I ain’t got shit. And if you act like you don’t have money, you won’t have to worry or question people’s motives. That’s a whole other story on its own though.

“Money doesn’t buy you happiness.” That’s such a loaded statement. Because it’s true, all the money ain’t shit if you’re not happy, but also, having little to no money can be the cause of your unhappiness. Especially being in the Bay Area, if you’re not a techy or making that 6 figure salary, I’m pretty sure money would make you a lot happier! So we’re stuck in this cycle where we keep wanting more and more, hoping that our growing savings account can accumulate enough where you feel content and secure. But everyone starts somewhere.

I mean, I’m sure majority of us don’t have inheritance money. So we all got to start somewhere. Money ain’t shit if you’re making it the only reason for your happiness. But also taking on the role of broke bitch your whole life isn’t cute either. You know what I mean… I know y’all know a couple people. The kind of people that use being broke as an excuse to mooch off others or just an excuse in general, but you see them rocking the latest shoes? That’s none of my business though.

It’s a shame when people value money over everything else. Suddenly, working is more important than quality time with loved ones. There are people that think money and material things will solve everything, and that’s just not the case. Usually seeking validation through monetary value is an indication that you are trying to mask some unresolved pain within yourself. Money always brings problems from both ends – having a lot of money and being broke. A lot of famous people overdose and die despite having the big house, comfortable life, and lavish lifestyle. While people who are barely affording rent dream of the day when their big break will happen. We’re all just waiting.

At the end of the day, getting paid the big bucks doesn’t make you any better than someone who is still making minimum wage. There’s this weird notion that the more money you make, the more important you are. There’s nothing more sad than seeing someone who “made it” forget where they came from. As cliché as it sounds, it’s not about what and how much you got, it’s about who you got.

I feel like if you’re looking to fill a void within yourself, then there will never be enough money in the world. And that’s why money can’t buy happiness, because happiness is something you determine for yourself. No amount of money or material things can make a person feel whole. Money doesn’t make you real. Money doesn’t make you more important. Money doesn’t make you happy. I guess that’s why they call it “paper chasing,” because you’re always going to be after something that can’t be caught.

Father’s Day 2020

To this day, my parents still laugh and tell the stories of me in preschool. I was a half day kid, so I was only in preschool for a couple of hours. The preschool was in a center, and a lot of the parents, my dad included, would just chill on the sidelines near the exit and talk amongst each other until it was time to go home. I was 4, and I remember always taking glances to where the parents were because I always wanted to keep an eye out for my dad. I wanted to make sure he was always there, that I wasn’t alone. I could be having a lot of fun playing with friends or be distracted by toys, but the moment my dad wasn’t in view I would lose it.

My dad always describes the same events. How he would always see me trying to look for him. He remembers me always turning around to see if he was still there, and how I would cry when I couldn’t find him. One time he had to use the bathroom, so he went up to me and told me he’d be right back. He had to explain to me where he was going and for how long since every move he made I cried because I thought he was leaving. He told me over and over again that he was just going to the bathroom and he’d return shortly. According to my dad I agreed and went about playing.

“Not even one minute later,” my dad exaggerates, “I open the door, and you’re standing there crying!”

My parents tell the stories of me as a clingy preschool kid all the time. And how after preschool my dad would be holding my little sister in the carseat in one hand, and me clinging onto his leg on the other side as he dropped us off to my grandma’s house, “Mama’s House,” so he could go to work. These are vague memories that I remember, but for my dad, that time he was in the thick of being a dad to 3 young girls, 2 of which were under the age of 5.

Growing up my mom would always tell me and my sisters, “See! You should be grateful for your dad!” I didn’t really grasp that phrase completely until I grew up. Because as a kid, growing up with my dad, who off the bat, did everything and anything for our family, I thought nothing of it. It’s all we ever knew. But as I got older, I realized how good I actually have it. I realized that a lot of people don’t have a dad like mine.

In my family, we all have a short temper with each other. But at the end of the day we all got each other. That’s what my parents taught us, and my dad has shown us that time and time again. It doesn’t matter what happens or what was said, I know my dad would do anything for any of us in a heart beat. I think my dad’s one hell of a guy. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad.

He has been the example of what a man should be like. Not only as a man, but as a father as well. When I tell you my sisters and I are spoiled, I mean that shit and it’s high key embarrassing. Not in monetary value, but with acts of service. In my household, we don’t know how to be affectionate towards one another without making it a joke. It’s actually something we need to work on. But our love translates by how loyal we are when shit hits the fan, acts of service, and food. That’s how we show our love.

My mom always told us to choose the right guy, “like your dad.” Growing up we were like “EwWwWwW” because the thought of your significant other being like your parent is fuckin weird. But now, I look at my man and see the resemblance in his character. He reminds me of my dad. And that’s how I know I’m headed towards the right path. My dad has spoiled my sisters and I, that we have certain standards when looking for a partner. We’re not going to settle for a halfass kind of dude when our dad has set the bar of acts of service and loyalty to my mom and my sisters so high from the get. He’s always been by my mom’s side and has been there for our family through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Never budging, never running away from problems, never making excuses, but facing every problem head on. And being present for everything.

Growing up, my mom was the tough one and whatever she says goes. Period. But we would always sway our dad to try to change her mind. And if it was a hard “no,” from mom, it was most likely a “ugh. Ok ok” from dad. Whether that be “can we go to the mall?” “Can I change the channel?” “Can you drop me to my friends house?” “Can we get boba, I’ll pay!”

My dad is the most selfless, loyal, honest, and generous person I know. Even if he doesn’t have much for himself, he’ll still try to give to someone if he knows that they have it worse than him. When we would be waiting in the car for one of my sister’s at BART, he’ll literally get out of the car to give a homeless person some crackers. He’s just that kind of dude. He’s not rich, but he’ll give someone the last of his cash in his wallet.

I’d like to think that that’s where I get my empathetic ways from. My dad. I’m always trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I’m always trying to fight for what’s right, to stand up for those who need help. He’s taught me to care. And not just care for the people I know. A lot of people are taught to just look out for themselves. But my dad is the opposite. He puts others before himself sometimes, all the while looking out for his family and those around him. But at the same time, teaching us to look between the lines and look past some people’s alternate motives.

Every Father’s Day we ask my dad what he wants for a gift. “Nothing.” Is his response every year my whole life. You know when someone says “nothing” but you know they’re lowkey expecting something? Yeah. That ain’t the case. When my dad says “nothing” he legit means don’t get him anything. But of course we still get him gifts.

To our driver, social justice warrior, unproblematic, Prince-loving-mother-trucker, “despacito” singing, “K” replying father – Happy Father’s Day! We appreciate and love you, and we can’t imagine this life without you! Cue in the ugly faces and “ya ya ya okkkkk” since we all can’t show proper affection 🥴💘.