Roe v. Wade – The Right To Choose

First and foremost, I think it’s actually ridiculous that abortion is still a “controversial” topic in 20 fucking 22. It’s crazy to think that the government can actually have a say in what you choose to do with your life and your body. As a woman, I’m outraged and annoyed that this is still something up for debate. It’s simple – you don’t have to agree with abortions, but it is not anyone’s place to tell a woman what she can and can not do with her own body. Each person is entitled to their own choice, and to take away that choice is unfathomable. For a nation that pride’s itself on being “free” and preaches freedom every opportunity it gets, this is as unconstitutional as it gets.

I grew up in a Catholic household. I attended Catholic school from Kindergarten through 8th grade. I remember being excited to learn about Sex Ed for the first time in 5th grade because it seemed like such a taboo topic that we would finally get to dive into. Since we were a Catholic school, they were so dramatic that each child needed a form signed by a parent stating that it was okay for them to learn about Sex Ed. For those that don’t know, Catholic schools are under the private school category, which means by law, they are not obligated to fulfill any state or national curriculum. According to the California Department of Education, “Private schools select and provide all curriculum, instruction, and instructional materials to students.”

That meant that certain parts of Sex Ed could be removed from the lesson. For the most part, we went over the basic anatomy of the male and female bodies, how a sperm meets and egg, and how conception happens. It was very textbook heavy, and didn’t really go into detail about the act of sex itself, but more so that sex leads to a sperm and an egg meeting in the uterus. I’ll never forget the video we watched for Sex Ed in the 8th grade. It was a documentary of a boy who was the result of a rape. Instead of his mother having an abortion, she chose adoption. Of course, being a Catholic school, it made sense why they were showing pro-life propaganda. However, at the time, I remember thinking how messed up it was to use religion and hell as a guilt trip, especially in the instance of rape. I remember thinking the opposite of their point to show the documentary. I recall thinking how if I was his mother, I wouldn’t want to continue with the pregnancy.

Abortion is so controversial because people can’t separate religion from politics. Other people’s religious beliefs should not play a role in law making. Everyone is entitled to religious-freedom. Believe what you want to believe, worship who you would like to worship, and live by any teachings you think is necessary in this lifetime. However, how you choose to express your religious beliefs should not be forced onto someone else. What a woman chooses to do with her own body has nothing to do with you or your own personal beliefs. Just like how you are entitled to choose what you want to believe in, all women should be entitled to choose what they do with their bodies and lives. This includes terminating a pregnancy if they don’t wish to be pregnant.

The reality is simple. Don’t believe in abortions? Don’t get one. Don’t have a uterus? Shut the fuck up. Think abortion is murder? The blood’s not on your hands or your conscious. That’s what it boils down to, but people want to over complicate it. The problem is that people don’t stay in their own lane. Instead of focusing on themselves and making sure they are living according to their own beliefs, they’re too busy making someone else’s life decisions their problem. All one can really do is make sure that they are making their own decisions based on what they believe and feel to be the right choice for themselves. The women that are actually pregnant know their circumstances better than any outsider that tries to tell them otherwise. Any decision they make regarding a baby growing inside their body should be entirely up to them, not the state.

What a woman chooses to do with her life and body is entirely up to her, whether people agree with her decision or not. And it should stay that way. No law should force a woman to keep a pregnancy she does not want, can’t afford, or is not ready for. Whatever the reason may be for why a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy is honestly nobody’s business. Other people’s beliefs, religion, and personal biases should never be the reason why women lose their right to choose. To those that are in favor of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I have this to say: Others do not have to believe the same things as you, worship the same God as you, or even have the same perspective in life as you. And it’s not your job to try to change their minds. So it’s actually really simple, if you don’t believe in abortions, don’t fucking get one. A woman is just as entitled to terminate a pregnancy as another woman is entitled to keep hers. Everyone should have the authority to choose for themselves.

There are some people that are entirely against abortions in every unfortunate scenario possible. To some pro-lifers, it doesn’t matter if the mother was raped, if their health is in danger, if the baby is a product of abuse or incest, if the mother’s not ready, not financially stable, or not in the position to care for a child. In this instance, the stance is that an unborn, unaware, unconscious life is worth more than a living, self-aware, cognizant being. The embryotic baby who has never experienced life outside of the womb has more rights than you and I. It seems like so much attention is focused on keeping unborn babies alive, but the truth of the matter is, when those unwanted babies are born, then it’s completely up to the mother. It’s no longer, “all lives are precious,” but, “That’s your child, now you care for it, even if you didn’t want to proceed with this in the first place.” Once the baby is born, all the rallying is over. There is no support post-birth.

Some think abortions are only excusable in extreme circumstances. Those exceptions usually mean when a woman is raped, or when the pregnancy poses a threat to the woman’s life. I saw a post going around on social media saying that this mindset is saying that a woman only has a say when her body has been violated by another. And I couldn’t agree more. If a pregnancy is not wanted, the reason for why a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy should not matter. She does not need to be taken advantage of or have her body violated to “earn” that right. Everyone should have the freedom to choose.

Overturning Roe v. Wade does not eliminate abortions. Just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it will not take place all over the world. Making abortions illegal will just make it harder for women to have access to the right treatment. Not only will it be harder to terminate a pregnancy, but others may try to take matters into their own hands. This can lead to unsafe methods that can completely be avoided. Taking away the right for a woman to choose if she will or will not reproduce only effects low-income households. Rich women will not be effected because their money will grant them more access to safer procedures. The fact of the matter is, abortions – whether legal or not – will take place. People will always find a way. And if they’re going to happen regardless, we should have proper procedures and protocols in place.

You can be pro-life but still support pro-choice. Just because you believe every woman has the right to choose for themselves doesn’t mean you personally would get an abortion. You could never want / get an abortion in your life, but still think abortions are okay. It’s okay to disagree with abortions but realize that it is not your place to tell a woman what to do with their body. Pro-life doesn’t have to mean anti-choice. I say this because I feel like a lot of people out there personally don’t agree with abortions, so they feel like they need to personalize the topic. By saying and confirming that THEY would never get an abortion means that they don’t believe others should get it. And that’s not true. If it’s not the route you would take, that’s understandable. But just because you can’t relate to a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy doesn’t mean abortions should be banned.

For those who have ever gotten an abortion, there is nothing to be ashamed of. And there is no shame in supporting those who have gotten abortions either. This is a very pivotal moment in history, and there will be some that will try to skew the narrative. Just because you support every woman’s right to choose, doesn’t mean you don’t value life. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you see nothing wrong with a woman terminating a pregnancy she doesn’t wish to keep. Everyone should feel like they are in control of their own lives. The government should have no say in whether or not a woman reproduces.

I can’t believe I’m writing about this in 2022…

Ayla: My Body Is Allowed To Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kikay Fit

In 2014 after a nasty break up, Shonalyn found herself depressed with a lot of free time. She started to realize that all of her energy went into this failed relationship, and she had no actual goals or hobbies for herself. She was at rock bottom, and didn’t know how to distract herself and move on from everything she just went through. Shonalyn saw this as an opportunity to finally focus on herself, After years of prioritizing her relationship, she knew this was the time to focus all of her attention on rebuilding her self-esteem and self-love.

So, Shonalyn turned to the gym. Not only did she feel good about herself for being active and being more healthy, but her mental health started to improve as well. What originally started as a distraction quickly turned into a new found passion. Shonalyn started to notice her body getting stronger, losing weight, and feeling pumped. This sense of accomplishment was all new to her. Before finding the gym, she felt as though she didn’t really have anything going for her because all her time and effort went into her past relationship, she didn’t care about anything else. She didn’t set goals for herself, and didn’t feel like she was achieving anything. But at the gym, she found herself accomplishing a lot more than what she originally thought she would gain from going consistently.

“I just proved to myself that I am capable of achieving other things,” Shonalyn said remembering why her fitness accomplishments meant so much to her at the time. “This was the first time I accomplished something myself and for myself.”

Since then, Shonalyn’s lifestyle completely changed. And since 2014, fitness has been her passion. Pursuing the fitness industry has always been at the back of her mind, but she never imagined that one day she would be running her own gym, training her own clients, and starting up Kikay Fit. It took Shonalyn a few years to get to this point. There has been a lot of self-doubt, insecurities, career changes, and set backs, but Kikay Fit would not be where it is today without these events taking place. Through this process, Shonalyn realized that sometimes, it’s you and your own self-doubt that will get in the way of your dreams and success. This is the story of Kikay Fit, and how Shonalyn took her own advice by acting on the phrase, “Fuck it, just do it,” to take the leap of faith and start her small business.

Shonalyn has been taking her fitness goals seriously since she first fell in love with it in 2014. She dreamed of one day pursuing personal training as a part time gig, but didn’t really have a time frame set to make it happen. There were times where Shonalyn posted about her fitness progress or videos of her working out. Some people started reaching out to her to ask for tips and questions on working out, and it would make her feel so good that she could offer her knowledge on the subject to help someone out. In the past, Shonalyn would put herself down and tell herself that she was “dumb” or “not good at a lot of things.” With fitness, she felt confident and “good enough” to give others advice and help them if they needed it. That was a reoccurring theme that Shonalyn would soon find out about herself – that she loved to help people. That was the main reason why she was going to college to be a social worker.

In 2017, Shonalyn graduated from college and went on to pursue her dream of being a social worker. Being a social worker is hard work, she found herself wearing different hats while on the job. Shonalyn loved that she got to help people with her line of work, and she really felt like her job was making a difference is someone else’s life. But it was stressful and emotionally draining. Being a social worker really put a strain on her mental health and overall happiness. It was a combination of the line of work, mixed with a lot of overtime hours, and working overnight shifts, that made Shonalyn feel completely drained.

Shonalyn was determined to pivot and make a career change. Even if it was a baby step, she knew she had to start somewhere. She didn’t have to think too long to know that she wanted to pursue fitness and personal training. After all, it’s been a dream of hers that she’s kept buried at the back of her mind. She always knew that eventually somewhere down the line personal training would be in her cards. Now was the time for it to flourish and become a reality, even if it was just part-time, as she kept her full-time job as a social worker. It made sense to her to combine her two passions together – fitness and helping others. By combining the two, she would still feel fulfilled, since helping people was the main reason why she became a social worker.

“I still wanted to help people,” Shonalyn said. “I’m really passionate about fitness, so it’s like, why not combine them? This way I still get to help others and put in my all, but I can still have that work life balance where my life doesn’t just revolve around work.”

But, she was very hesitant. All her life and to this day, Shonalyn struggles with self-esteem, confidence, and self-doubt. She was afraid that no one would be interested in training with her, that she would embarrass herself, and probably nobody would care what she was doing. She tried her best to ignore the negative self-talk she was so used to. She got the courage to started doing group workouts in 2018. Shonalyn was renting out space at a gym to hold her monthly group workouts, and to outsiders looking in, it was going pretty well. But to Shonalyn, all she could think about was all the negative things that could be said. She was getting positive feedback from those taking her classes, but she kept talking herself out of the praise. She was still worried that maybe her clients weren’t satisfied with the service they were paying for. Shonalyn got in her own head, and in early 2019, she stopped the group classes all together.

2019 was a really glum year for Shonalyn. She ended 2018 thinking that she got her foot into the personal training fitness world, and entered 2019 feeling defeated. She fell into a deep depression and couldn’t figure out how to snap herself out of it. She couldn’t figure out a plan for herself and her self-doubt was piling on. She stopped offering her group training classes, deleted social media, and disconnected from those around her. As a trainer, you have to put yourself out there and “sell” your training to others. That meant being active on social media, and Shonalyn just wasn’t up for it. Posting on social media made Shonalyn very self-conscious, and in her current mindset, she didn’t want to deal with any of it. She had mentally checked out early on in 2019.

Shonalyn stayed doing social work full-time when she stopped doing group work outs. That feeling of being stressed and drained lingered, and it only got more intense as she stayed in the industry. After work, Shonalyn would go home and feel like her energy was on low battery. She would be cranky and moody to those she lived with, and just wanted to go home, rest, and mentally prepare herself for the next day at work. She started to notice that she became very antisocial – not wanting to hangout on weekdays because she had work the next day, but still not wanting to hangout on weekends because those were the only days she had to herself. Even on the weekends Shonalyn could never fully relax. She would just stress herself on Sundays, thinking about the work week ahead. Shonalyn was conflicted because she loved that she was helping people, but didn’t like that it was at her mental health’s expense. She needed a change, dreading work and the work week wasn’t how she wanted to live her life anymore, so she put her mental health first. Towards the end of the year, November 2019, Shonalyn decided to make the transition once again to do personal training part-time.

Shonalyn picked up 2 personal training jobs while still keeping her two social worker jobs! For a couple months she juggled four jobs to make sure she could transition to the fitness industry smoothly. And when February 2020 came around, she finally took the leap of faith and left social work completely. Shonalyn was finally committed to only personal training, and she couldn’t have been more excited and anxious for the change. But two weeks after quitting both of her social work jobs, COVID hit. She had quit to start putting in more time and effort at the gyms she was employed at, and two weeks later, the gyms were closed. She couldn’t believe it. Instead of collecting unemployment, Shonalyn decided to go back to being a social worker until Shelter in Place was over.

It took a couple of months, but gyms finally re-opened July 2020. Shonalyn left social work once again, hoping that it would be final this time around. She went back to being a trainer and doing group sessions through the two gyms she worked at. Since her time was 100% focused on her fitness career, Shonalyn finally decided to take a huge risk September 2020 to leave her two training jobs to branch out and get her own clients. She started offering group workouts again at the gym she previously rented out when she first started in 2018. To get word around that she was doing personal training again, Shonalyn hired a videographer and hosted a “launch party group workout” that would document Kikay Fit‘s debut on October 14, 2020.

The original plan was to do a couple of group workout sessions a couple times a week indoors at the gym. But COVID had other plans for what direction Kikay Fit would go. With COVID cases rising and as the holidays loomed around the corner, many of Shonalyn’s potential clients were not interested in group workouts. To Shonalyn’s surprise, her potential clients all preferred 1 on 1 training. In fact, this was a popular opinion across the board, for many different reasons. For one, it was hard to get a consistent group to all sync up their time to attend group classes regularly because of personal schedules. Two, safety reasons. COVID was only getting worse, and her clients didn’t feel comfortable training with other people. A lot her clients were hesitant to work out at the gym, and didn’t want to be exposed to equipment that multiple people were using. For these reasons, Shonalyn catered to her clients’ needs and concerns and started investing in her own equipment, and driving out to their personal homes for 1 on 1 training.

1 on 1 training was not the direction Kikay Fit was supposed to go. Shonalyn had doubts about offering 1 on 1 sessions because she feared that no one would be interested since it is more costly. When the results were overwhelmingly leaning towards 1 on 1 training, Shonalyn listened to her feedback. Even though it was not her original plan to offer personal sessions, COVID made it that she had no choice. She was so used to juggling multiple jobs at a time, and having a safety net incase one job fell through. This time around, she was only pursuing fitness, and it was her main source of income. Shonalyn admits that without COVID, she wouldn’t have been forced to leave her comfort zone. She had self-doubt about 1 on 1 training, but with the pandemic, it was her only option, and she had no choice but to pivot and offer 1 on 1 training.

“I gave myself a pep talk like, ‘OK, all this talk all these years, but now you gotta be about it,’ ” She said remembering how she accepted the challenge of offering personal sessions.

Her 1 on 1 sessions were going well, and she was surprised how many clients she had. It has been a little over two months since launching Kikay Fit, and Shonalyn really prepared herself to only have 1 or 2 clients for the first 6 months to a year. Her first month in business she had about 15 clients, which exceeded all of her expectations for starting out with 0 clientele. She is aware that clients will always fluctuate, but she is grateful for all the support and positive feedback she has already received in such a short amount of time. Because most of these clients prefer 1 on 1 and not to use the rented gym space, Shonalyn found herself making a lot of trips back and forth from client to client throughout the day. This involved packing and unpacking equipment, driving from house to house, and factoring in the time it takes to drive from destination to destination. It was a lot of sacrifice, but it led to Shonalyn’s proudest accomplishment of 2021.

Since she was commuting so much throughout the day, and gyms were closing down once again, Shonalyn got the idea to make a garage gym where she can train her clients. Shonalyn knew that she would have to invest a lot of time and money in building her garage gym, but she knew that in the long run it would benefit Kikay Fit. More people were reaching out for training, but didn’t have the proper space to do so at their own home. Others wanted to join, but she couldn’t squeeze that many people into her schedule because a lot of her time was on the road driving to her next client. By eliminating the commute and unloading / re-loading of equipment, Shonalyn was confident that she could take on more clients. She locked in the new clients to start the week of January 4th, which really pushed her to have a strict deadline to build the gym. But not only did she finish the gym in time, she finished it early, which is way easier said than done. The garage was previously being used as storage, and that in itself was a long tiring process to clean out, but by the end of it, she felt so accomplished and ready to start putting her gym together.

“Although I was ok doing it, I knew it wasn’t sustainable in the long run,” She said, explaining why driving from client to client wasn’t realistic. “So for about a month and a half, I invested a lot of money and time in building a garage gym! All the equipment was back ordered, and double/triple the price but I knew this was an investment and I had to do it for the business.”

Completing the garage gym in time for the new year already made 2021 look so much brighter. And the gym isn’t her only goal for the year. Of course Shonalyn wants to continue to take on more clients, get word around of her small business, and be available to others – but she also knows that this can only be done through marketing and posting consistent content. This is something that Shonalyn has struggled with, because it opens Pandora’s box of all the insecurities she has tried to silence over the years. She is well aware that majority of her posts are of others working out, since this is intentional. She gets very self-conscious to post videos of herself working out, but knows that she needs to step it up and show her clients and future clients that she is “about it.”

She knows that being more confident to post on social media is way easier said than done. After all, that is one of the main reasons why it took Shonalyn so long to pursue the fitness industry. She has always been so in her head about what others might think about her fitness posts, that it held her back from doing what she wanted to do with her career. Shonalyn was afraid that people would talk about her behind her back and send her social media posts in their group chats to gossip, she was afraid that her content would annoy people that follow her, and over analyzed every aspect of all the negative possibilities. Back in the day when she would post on her stories or posts, she would constantly check her phone every 2 minutes or so to see who “seen” the post and who “liked” it. It was too much. When she finally followed through with Kikay Fit, she knew that she had to adopt the “fuck it,” mentality, or she would never take the risks she needed to take to expand her business. At the end of the day, she knows that haters aren’t going to pay her bills, so she might as well put her and her business out there.

Shonalyn knows that social media can be a very judgmental place, and it can be very discouraging when you’re comparing yourself to someone else. So her advice to those that want to start working out but are too embarrassed or discouraged is to try not to compare yourself to others. She stresses that the only person you should be worried about is yourself and your own progress. It may seem overwhelming at first, but Shonalyn wants people to remember that everyone has a day 0. Shonalyn even acknowledges that people at the gym can be very judgmental or some may feel insecure and feel like they’re being judged at the gym. She urges people that want to try to workout consistently to give it a try and not let their self-doubt get in the way of taking the next step because progress is an ongoing process.

And she knows from experience that “progress is an ongoing process” when it comes to mental health and body image as well. All her life, Shonalyn thought being a certain weight and looking a certain way would make her happy. In 2017, she trained and competed in a bikini competition. At her smallest, she was 102 pounds, had abs, had the body she thought she could never have, and placed 3rd in the bikini competition. Shonalyn should’ve been happy since she thought happiness would come with losing weight, but her mental health wasn’t there. She still didn’t feel confident in her body even after winning a medal. Being insecure and lacking confidence is something that she is no stranger to. Shonalyn had to remind herself that she is more than just her body. And that’s what she wants her clients to know as well – that there are so many other aspects of them that is important. If you’re not happy with the way you look or how your body is, celebrate something else about you that you do like.

“Your physique isn’t everything,” Shonalyn said, hoping this reaches someone that is struggling with body image as well. Even as a personal trainer, she’s still conflicted from time to time on her own body image. “It’s hard for me to give advice to someone when I’m still dealing with it.”

That’s why it is so rewarding to Shonalyn when a client starts to feel confident in themselves. She loves that she is making an impact in other people’s lives by training them. What Shonalyn stresses is the importance of mental health. And that’s when she feels the most fulfilled – when her clients are thriving and radiating self-confidence. A lot of her clients were once in her shoes – insecure to step foot in a gym fearing that they would be judged by others because of their self-doubt. She loves when her clients start to notice their own progress like getting stronger, losing weight, or just doing workouts that they would’ve never done before. Shonalyn really tries to switch it up with her clients by giving them a variety of workouts, but also listening to their wants. For her, her clients aren’t just another number. She always ends up building friendships with those who train with her, I guess that’s the social worker in her!

Growing up, Shonalyn’s Lolo-dad (grandpa) always referred to her as “Kikay.” She never knew why, until one day she searched it up and learned it was a slang word in Tagalog for girl / girly. She loves that she can remember and honor her Lolo-dad by naming her business after the nickname he gave her. Shonalyn likes to think that it’s the perfect name, since her goal is to empower women and those around her. She laughs because the meaning of the business’ name was a bit random, but proved to have a deeper meaning the more she thought about it.

Shonalyn went through so much to get Kikay Fit to where it is today. She had a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of self-doubt. At times, her number one enemy and hater was herself. She looks back and realizes how much time she wasted doubting herself. When she finally let go of her self-doubts, she started to see her life going in the right direction. Sometimes, the only person stopping you from achieving greatness is yourself. Once you let go of all the negative self-talk, doubts, and insecurities, you will find yourself taking risks, not caring what others will think. You can sit there and talk yourself out of an idea and never know, or you can test the waters and see where your ideas will take you.

“My confidence still fluctuates until now,” Shonalyn said. “But I went from having 0 confidence to start personal training, to now having my own garage gym.”

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.

1 Year Blog-versary

On Monday, July 1, 2019 I finally made the decision to consistently post on this blog. I didn’t know how long I’d roll with it, I didn’t have tons of content lined up, I didn’t care if I had 1 viewer. I just knew that writing consistently was something I’ve been wanting to do, but kept putting off. Here we are, a little over a year later. A few weeks ago was my 1 year blog-versary! 🎉

I originally made this blog for a journalism class when I was still in Skyline Community College, 4 years ago. I had to make X amount of posts for the semester, and after that, I didn’t really keep up. I would post here and there, usually articles I wrote for Xpress Magazine or a project I did for a class while I was at SFSU. I was kind’ve just keeping everything I wrote in one place. Every now and then I’d get inspiration to post a blog post that wasn’t an article I wrote for something else. But I was never consistent. It was one of those things where you say you want to do “XYZ” but never have the time or courage to follow through with it.

A year ago when I decided to revive my blog, I was in the thick of my post-grad blues. I graduated in December 2018, and July 2019 I decided to take that leap and start up this blog again. But it wasn’t that easy. That was 7 months of me just debating on whether or not to make this happen. 7 months of making myself feel like shit. Feeling lost. Feeling like I’ve lost all sense of self since I was no longer a student. Feeling stuck and confused on what path to take next.

The hardest part was starting. As cliché as it sounds, it’s the truth. Making the decision to start was the biggest hump I had to get over. Posting consistently on this blog was something I wanted to do since the class ended (the class that made me start this blog). That was in 2016. So it took all of THREE YEARS to actually follow through with it. It was that last 7 months, the hard-core post-grad blues, that gave me that push. I walked the stage in May 2019, and before that I felt the post-grad blues creeping. But after I walked the stage in May, I knew I was in for a sea of emotions. I knew I’d come down from the high eventually, but I didn’t think I’d crash that hard. The last month and a half after my graduation ceremony is what made me start. That antsy feeling of “wtf am I doing with my life?” set in. This blog was hope I gave myself in my darkest times.

And for the record, I’m still somewhat in my post-grad funk, 1.5 years later. This blog helped me pull myself out of the gutter, but I still have my days… Shit, weeks is more accurate. In no way am I saying that I was depressed after graduation so I started writing and now I’m all good. Nope. In fact, if you keep up with my blog, you’d know that that is far from the truth. But, this blog did turn into my outlet.

I’ve poured my heart out online to people I know and people I don’t know. For everyone to see. For anyone that knows me personally, that is totally against how I am as a person. With close friends and those I trust, I can vent my heart out, complain, cry, be angry, all the above. But only a select few people know me. The real me. Only a handful of people know what I really feel and how I really think. It’s not like me to put all my business out there for the world to see. I mean, stalk my Facebook circa 2009 and that’s a different story… But over the years I have evolved from wanting to share every stupid “who even cares” opinion and cringe selfie, to barely posting, to only posting pictures, transitioning to Instagram, being pretty active on the ‘gram, but slowly posting less and less. Yeah, I would still post, but never in depth into my life. I realized I wanted to be more private. The less people knew about me, my family, my relationship, and my life in general was better.

When I decided to start my blog again, I wasn’t posting much. I debated on if I even wanted people to know my business like that. I weighed out my pros and cons of making my experiences public. Was I ready to be vulnerable? At the time I wasn’t sure. I just knew that writing and actually keeping up a blog was something I had to do for myself. I’ve always admired how some public figures I follow on social media could be so transparent with their struggles. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling. I was tired of seeing the same filtered “always smiling,” “always good,” “no problems over here,” “I’m livin’ my best life,” type of content.

I wanted to bring attention to topics and issues that aren’t talked about often. And I knew in order to reach out / get people to care, I would have to get very personal. Starting with myself. And by doing that, a lot of people have reached out to me with their stories, their struggles, their truth. Whether that be in private, or featured as one of my blog posts.

A response I get a lot is people telling me, “your story made me cry.” And that’s one of the best compliments I could get as a writer. Not because I’m a bitch and I want people to be depressed, but because I know that it made my readers feel something. It touched my readers in a way where there were no words, just emotions. If you’re feeling it that hard, it’s probably because you can relate to the story you just read. And it warms my heart when people tell me they go back to reread certain blog posts when they’re feeling down or need a reminder that they’re not alone. Sometimes you need to read someone else’s story to realize the similarities in your life. It brings healing.

And that’s part of the reason why I write for myself. It brings healing. I can express exactly how I feel in writing. Sometimes I really can’t express my emotions verbally. It’s either I hold it in, or I say how I feel very bluntly and then feelings are hurt. Starting up this blog again and writing my very personal stories forced me to deal with some of my inner turmoil. What am I afraid of? What gets me emotional? Why is XYZ important to me? Sorting out my feelings and writing out my train of thought really helped me within this past year.

When I decided to finally post consistently, I had no idea where this blog would take me. I had no end goal. I didn’t know how long I would continue it, and honestly expected myself to fall off after about 5 posts. But I held myself accountable as if this blog were paying me. It’s something I had to prove to myself, that I could do it. That what I’m doing matters, and no matter what anyone else thinks, I believe in what I’m doing.

In July 2019 I started off with 6 followers on WordPress. 1 year later, I’m at 97. To some, that ain’t shit. But to me, someone who was happy if 1 person viewed my story, this is an accomplishment. I mostly get all my views from sharing on Instagram and Facebook, but it’s nice to know that I have followers on WordPress who don’t even know me in real life.

A few months ago TrapxArt reached out to me to be featured on their website. It felt so good to be recognized as a writer and as a creative. So, I just want to say thank you. To all those who have supported me, who have cheered me on, who have read my content, those who promote my content, have been the subject of one of my stories, thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories, reading my stories, and keeping it real with me. I still have no idea where this blog is headed. I don’t know how long I’m going to keep this up, or where this blog will take me. But I do know that in just 1 year of posting consistently, I have 50 blog posts to show for it (this post will be #51), and a small following of people that read my content consistently.

Thank you for reading, for keeping up, supporting me, crying with me, laughing with me, and taking this journey with me!

Cheers to 1 year 🥂! *hot cheeto toast*

Sunshine After the Rain

How did Rain get here? Her story started years prior, but the passing of her baby brother, Josh, in 2015 is what triggered her to live her life… her way.

No more waiting. Live your life now. Life is too short.

And just like that, “Rain” was officially “born.” This time, legally.

Growing up, Rain always knew she was different. Back then, the LGBTQ community wasn’t as evolved as it is now. It seemed like being gay or being a drag queen were the only options she could choose from. Rain didn’t identify with either. But Rain knew since her early high school years that she identified as a woman, even though her outward appearance said otherwise.

In high school, Rain experienced her fair share of bullying. She felt like she had to hide her emotions. If she was angry or hurt by her peer’s bullying and taunting words, she would go somewhere private where she could cry out by herself. When people would ask if she was okay, she’d play it off and swear that everything was fine. Even though she truly felt like the joke was on her. Rain felt like she was an easy target back then because she was the, “obese gay boy,” that only hung out with girls and focused on academia. High school Rain has been called every degrading name there is to label a feminine male.

Unfortunately, Rain was incredibly shy and never spoke back to her bullies. She just accepted the taunting and knew that it would all eventually pass. The bullying just made it more apparent that she was different, and she was curious as to why she felt so out of place. Through all the bullying and her ruthless peers, Rain does remember one classmate in particular. She remembers him not because he was an asshole to her, but because he was the only one that wasn’t. His name was Jordan. He was one of the popular guys at school. All of Jordan’s friends would make fun of Rain and go out of their way to be mean to her. But she remembers vividly how Jordan showed her compassion and kindness. He would wave to her and say what’s up in the hallways, and would smile at her whenever they saw each other. He was a friendly peer that didn’t give Rain a hard time for just being herself. Unfortunately, Jordan passed away tragically before she graduated, but Rain remembers how his kindness meant so much to her during a very difficult time in her life.

“It meant a lot to me because many can hurt you, but it takes 1 to heal you completely,” Rain shares.

High school was the beginning stages of Rain finding herself. She knew that her parents had a hunch about her sexuality, but she never revealed to them how she identified as a female. That all changed on Prom night. Prom night – a staple night for a high school student. Rain remembers her prom night as the day she came out to her parents.

Right before Rain was going to go off to her prom, her parents sat her down in their backyard in Hayward. Her dad calmly asked if she was gay and liked boys, and if she has ever done anything with a boy before. Rain finally revealed to her parents that she was attracted to men, but she didn’t have any experience with them. A weight was lifted off Rain’s shoulders. She could see on her dad’s face that he was relieved that the talk was quick and to the point.

Her parents accepted her, they already had a feeling that Rain was “gay.” Rain admitted to being “gay” to her parents at the time because she wasn’t totally sure how to identify. All she knew was that she was attracted to men and felt like a woman. She looks back and laughs at how obvious it was that she was attracted to men, and that her parents had to have known. She was obsessed with boy bands like The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, and is embarrassed at how much money she spent on “those boys.” Since she was open with her dad about not having any romantic experiences with men, she gained her parents’ trust. They were more concerned for her safety and how she carried herself.

You know how movies depict prom night as a magical, important, and life changing event in a teen’s life? Well, that was true for Rain. Not in the traditional aspect, she didn’t fall inlove and get her first kiss from her crush, like how Hollywood depicts it. But prom did change Rain forever. That night, she fell in love with herself.

At the actual event, she dressed in men’s clothing, feeling completely uncomfortable and not herself. After prom, Rain and her friends hit up the after parties. That night, she borrowed her friend’s plus-sized dress and boots, and they took over the night. She felt exhilarated. She never felt more like herself. Rain and her friends took the after party to a strip club in San Francisco. There she was, in a strip club surrounded by men in a dress and boots, passing with flying colors as a woman.

“It was so much fun because I never felt so good about myself,” Rain explains while remembering that night she dressed in women’s clothing for the first time. “I seriously felt like the woman I’ve always wanted to be.”

That night, Rain found herself. She always felt different and couldn’t put her finger on what would make her happy. But this was it. Being a woman made Rain happy. And from that day on, she dressed as a woman. She felt so good about herself, she didn’t want to hide anymore. She wasn’t afraid of what her family would say or think, or how strangers would react. She showed up to her family’s barbecue party in a skirt, boots, and makeup. She felt on top of the world, and didn’t want to keep it a secret, she wanted everyone to know who the real Rain was.

In her early college years, Rain tried to perfect her look. She dressed like a woman, wore makeup, and presented and introduced herself as a woman. Around this time is when she met her community of friends that were just like her. Rain’s uncle owned a restaurant/ club in South San Francisco called, “Solita’s.” A lot of comedians from the Philippines would perform on stage and do live shows at the club. This restaurant/ club scene brought in so many different audiences.

Solita’s is where Rain met a lot of her transgender friends. Solita’s welcomed the LGBTQ community with open arms. Rain quickly realized that many of them struggled to find work because they were being discriminated against because of their outward appearance and mannerisms. A lot of these transgender women were underground prostitutes, and that’s how they made their living. Their clients were usually heterosexual men who wanted to experiment with transgender women. Rain connected with a transgender woman at Solita’s who opened her eyes to the transgender world. One night Rain caught her friend making out with a guy outside of the club, she was intrigued, and wanted to learn more. She pondered on how her friend got a straight man.

Through this transition, Rain’s family supported her. Her mom and aunts bought her clothes, designer bags, bras, underwear, and other material things that showed that they were on board with Rain dressing up as a woman. Still, Rain felt like she had to be secretive with her personal life. She didn’t want her family to think that she was sleeping around and not doing things the “right way.” She never rebelled against her parents, she would sometimes push back with her choices in life, but for the most part she obeyed. Keeping her parents’ trust is something very important to her.

When it came to dating, Rain admits that she turned to the internet back in the day because it was easier to talk to men. Also, it was a lot safer because through her online categories and bio, it would tell her matches who she really was. She isn’t a fan of wasting time, so the internet was a way for her to express exactly what it is she was looking for. However, she quickly realized that the internet dating world wasn’t for her. Nowadays, Rain finds herself trying to connect with men in real life. Rain prefers to meet up with love interests in very public meet up spots. She knows a lot of her transgender friends would rather have an intimate setting, but for her own safety, Rain wants to be in a public area.

“When dating, we text each other to meet in well crowded public places, but then again I really don’t have a lot of experiences on dates,” Rain explains. “It’s mostly with guy friends or one on one with the ones I’ve known for a while.”

When she’s dating and knows something is getting serious, Rain will reveal to her partner that she is a transgender woman. But for the most part, she doesn’t say anything right off the bat because she wants to be judged as a regular human being. However, she plans to be very transparent about herself with future love interests because she believes they should know the truth. In her experience, most of the time they don’t ask, almost a kind’ve known topic that doesn’t need confirmation.

“As I get more confident, those days are so gone,” she explains when talking about online dating. “When I meet someone in person, like at work, they never ask me unless it’s going somewhere. Basically I want to ‘go with the flow’ and just be human. After all I ain’t an easy person – meaning I ain’t a hoe. My motive here is get to know him and see where it leads to. Now, if it’s going somewhere best believe I’ll break the ice and say ‘hey, sorry babe, but I’m transgender,’ so that it’s fair for the men. But nowadays most men don’t ask, they simply respect the way I want to be treated. I know for a fact they know of me, yet they still pursue me in a level of friendship or even intimacy.”

One thing that Rain takes very seriously is how she is perceived. She carries herself with high esteem and refuses to be a man’s fetish. She has heard of countless stories where trans women are used for financial gain, sexual curiosities, and just used to achieve someone else’s fantasies. And that’s not what Rain wants for herself. She knows herself well enough to know that she falls inlove fast. She wants to protect her heart, and guard her well-being.

“I just don’t wanna be jumping around with different men when I only want to focus on one,” she explains. “I want to save myself for someone who deserves me. I don’t want to live up to their lifestyle of just always looking for sex sex sex. I want to be different. I want to enjoy a meaningful safe life where its not all about being desired. I want someone to have deep conversations with, a simple dinner and movie, good laughs, holding hands in public without shame and without having to hide from anyone, and be able to show affection towards him with no hesitation.”

According to Rain, men treat her with respect and like a lady. She believes its because of the boundaries that she sets. She knows that she sets the precident for how she should be treated. But to her, it’s not about feeling desired from men. Rain doesn’t want a man so she can start loving herself, she wants to be content with herself first, fall in love with herself first, and a man’s love can come second. All she wants is to be happy with herself, content with her life, and most importantly travel the world.

Rain is the eldest of 5 children. When her youngest sibling, Josh, passed away tragically in 2015, Rain’s world fell apart. She was very close to Josh, and shared that older sister motherly bond with him. They shared a lot of the same interests, like food and anime. Josh was 16 when he passed away, and this tragedy changed Rain’s view on life completely.

“I believe if Josh was still alive he’d live his life the way he would have (wanted),” Rain says remembering her baby brother. “Imagine, a 16 year old in 2nd year college at Skyline, about to transfer to a university. A BSN major and minor in psychology; a life that I would love to have for myself. I’m so proud of him. I look up to him more than my own self. His teenage years I was there. He was my baby, I helped nurture him, understand him, guide him, and spend time with him. Josh and I were never selfish, we always care for our loved ones. When he passed, I chose to be a little bit more selfish for myself so I can fulfill his legacy, a promise to live the life I’ve always been wanting. When Josh died, I told myself, ‘That’s it, lets make it Rain!'”

After Josh’s passing, Rain decided to legally change her name. Her friends referred to her as “Rain” since high school / early college. However, her parents and family still referred to her by her birth name. When Rain legally changed her name, her parents and family had no choice but to comply. She filed for her legal name change, did her vows, and got the official document. To her, she did it the “right way,” by not rebelling and causing a scene, but by doing it legally and respectfully.

Why the name Rain? In the Play Station game “Galerians,” there is a character named Rainheart. She fell inlove with the powerful boss who is psychic and plus sized. But also because she loves cold weather, water, and the ocean. To her, Rain is a majestic and powerful name that she identifies with. Her family didn’t see it as the death of the man they once knew. They were just happy that they raised Rain to be a respectable human who kept the morals and values that her parents taught her.

Not only did Rain legally change her name after her brother’s death, but she also made the decision to transition. She is taking hormone pills, and plans to get her reassignment surgery done this July or August. Her family was supportive up until this moment. They believed that legally changing her name to Rain was enough. They felt like she didn’t need to do the reassignment surgery. But this is something that Rain has been wanting, and she’s doing it for her own happiness. Her family was against her getting a legal sex change because they are worried for her safety. They’re scared of all the sexually transmitted diseases that are out there. Her family knows people that have died from HIV/AIDS, so they are very weary. They are also worried about the complications that can go wrong during surgery. Not only did her family not agree at first, but her fellow transgender friends were not in favor either.

Her friends believed that Rain should keep her “parts,” and just use anal and oral sex. She is irked at the thought of her fellow transgender friends being so controlling on how the “transgender life should be.” Her friends were encouraging her to just use anal and oral sex to gain a reputation for herself, but Rain refuses. Her decision to have a vagina is completely her choice and something she’s been wanting to do for a while. She remains true to herself and her beliefs, though it might not be what her friends want for her. But she let’s her friends live their lives the way they want, and asks for the same respect with the choices she decides to make.

Right now, Rain is taking all the necessary hormone pills to stay on track for reassignment surgery in the Fall. The hormones in these pills sometimes makes Rain depressed, have mood swings, sweat more, and gives her a period every 2 weeks.

“Besides my high blood pressure pills, diabetic pills, here’s my hormone therapy pills,” she explains. “Spirolactin is a medicine to decrease testosterone level so that the estradiol pills works through my blood stream to increase my estrogen level. That I’ll be taking for the rest of my life.”

Rain admits that being a woman is tough work! Sometimes she thinks to herself why she chose this path, since the transition can be sometimes hard on her. She finds it tough that women have to be so concerned about their outward appearance, whether that be beauty, weight, etc. But then she remembers why she’s doing it. She identifies as a woman and feels the most like herself when she presents herself as a female. Everything she is doing if for her own happiness. And her dedication and bravery is nothing short of admirable and inspirational.

It took her some time to figure out who she was as a person. But that journey is what made her who she is today. When asked if she could give advice to younger Rain, this is what she had to say:

“(For) younger Rain, I’d tell myself: ‘Bitch, live now live everyday you only die once! Rain, so many opportunities you missed because you over think what others think of you… Don’t get stuck, if you feel like a real woman by all means make a goal to make it happen. See the world once you start making an income and while you’re young. Fall in love with yourself first before you fall for someone else because it’ll mentally destroy you! Stay healthy and be wise, research if you have time, if you have time to post on Facebook, bitch you have time to do homework and other important things! Take good care of yourself, pursue the happiness you’ve always wanted! Take care good of your siblings and your parents but spare time for yourself. Rain, me time is very important, it becomes a necessity not an option! Explore your world of adventures. Don’t wait for no one, let them be and they’ll follow once you show them what it is like to be one with the world. Clubs and loud music eventually will get over rated! Don’t get into a relationship just to be happy; be in a relationship with God and he will show you happiness! Always stay positive, always challenge yourself, be mindful before you react, actions are more valuable then words. Be humble, be honest, be nice, be calm, and be brave always… another thing count your blessings not the materialistic things!'”

She knows that there are some haters out there that don’t agree with the LGBTQ community. But her message is this:

“Above all else educate those who lack (knowledge) of our existence. I need for the community to know yes we do exist and will continue to co-exist until we are accepted peacefully. There’s still violence and discrimination out there about my transgender community, but we are doing our best to educate those who want further understanding of our world. Its also our job for my fellow trans to educate ourselves on how to better our future without having a war, remember we are accepted, respected, and acknowledge but to what extent if we ourselves don’t prove to those who want to know us. Let us change history to exist peacefully, in harmony, and in balance for everyone to have an open mind.”

When life threw her a curve ball, she made it Rain, full force. She has remained true to herself, ignoring other people’s desires and wants for her life. She is on a mission to live her life her way, and to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Walang Hiya

“Walang hiya,” literally translates to “no shame”/ “shameless” in Tagalog.

My ears are no stranger to this saying. In fact, all my life I’ve heard the terms, “walang hiya,” / “walang ka hiya?!” (“Have you no shame?!”). This phrase was almost always said to my sisters and I by our parents. And it was most definitely said to check us and humble us with the quickness. When you hear someone say, “walang hiya,”(statement form) / “walang ka hiya?!” (Question form) to another person, they’re checking the other person’s character and actions. It is generally not a positive reaction, especially in its statement form, “walang hiya” is most likely followed with a head shake and look of disappointment.

“Have you no shame?” has been instilled in mind at a young age. Every Filipino kid has heard this term growing up. And to be honest, my parents still say this to us to this day! Everyone can relate to their parents telling them that they are shameless, to the point where it’s almost a joke. Well, for my cousins and I atleast. When someone is being out of pocket and takes a joke too far, we’ll laugh and throw in, “walang hiya!”

When I was thinking of what to write for this week’s blog post, I kept thinking of how I could summarize my 2019. I didn’t want to do the typical, “What has 2019 taught me…” / “My goals for 2020 are…” post. I thought back on how I changed from the beginning of 2019 to now, about to close out the decade. And all that came to my mind was, “Walang Hiya.”

Shameless. I was definitely shameless this year. “Walang hiya,” has always been seen as a negative thing, but for me, being shameless this year has brought me inner growth. It has been such a confusing year for me personally. I really had to dig deep and remember who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.

My 2019 new year’s resolution was to start posting consistently on this blog. January 2019 came and went, and my blog was mad crickety. I was freshly graduated, and wanted to start my passion projects. The only thing getting in the way of that was… myself. I was over thinking, being insecure, and shy about my work. It’s easy to say, “just start!” when you’re posting your work for the public to see and criticize.

May 2019 I walked the stage with my journalism class. And my graduation ceremony sparked something in me. At that point I was 5 months out of school, and being back in the school setting, even if it was just to walk the stage, ignited my fire again. I saw my professors, and it inspired me to get out of the slump I was in and do something – anything – writing wise. It took a little over a month, but July 2019 I started posting consistently.

In the past, when I was still in school and would post what I wrote every now and then, I would get insecure about what people would think, the engagement I would get on the post, the photo that went with it, etc etc etc. But now, I don’t care about the likes, the comments, if I look “nice” in the cover pic. The thing was, in the past, I did have “hiya.” I had shame, when I should’ve had pride in my work. I was always taught that there is a very thin line between being proud/humble and being cocky. Posting about my writing / occasional video projects made me feel weird. It made me feel like I was boasting about my work, showing off, and seaking attention. It took me a while to let go of that “hiya” and share my ideas/ posts.

Before I started posting consistently on my blog, therefore all my social media platforms to get more engagement, I was very particular about what I posted. I was one of those social media users that would post like, once a month, and was very choosy on what I chose to share. Like I said before, social media is what people want you to see of them. And for me, I didn’t really feel the need to share anything particularly personal. It was like “you can see my family, friends, boyfriend, and that’s about all I’m going to share.” I didn’t post things if it wasn’t “Instagram worthy,” or if I didn’t look cute in it. I didn’t want to post too frequent, and I didn’t want to have too many posts on my feed. Because more posts on my Instagram meant that I was giving the public more pieces to the puzzle of “me.”

When I started posting a blog post every Monday, all that went out the window. In the beginning I felt some type of way that I was over sharing my life, and posting way more than I ever did before. My blog is kind of like posting my diary entries for the world to see. It gets real real quick. But I knew that if I ever wanted to be known as a writer who writes about real shit, I have to share what I write. That was definitely a transition for me. I’m not one to share my personal life on a Facebook status, and you would never catch me having Twitter fingers if I had beef with anyone. I was always a “think what you want to think, I keep my circle small and the people that matter know the truth,” if I was ever in some drama. But now, here I am, sharing my deepest thoughts, my fears, my struggles, my triumph, for the public to see.

Some of the things I write about would certainly get a, “walang ka hiya?!” from my parents, which was part of the reason why I was hesitant on posting consistently. Surprisingly, my mom hasn’t hit me with the, “walang ka hiya?!” statement yet on anything I have written so far. I think it’s one of those situations where she thinks it in her head, but won’t say it out loud because she knows I’m an adult and that I want to reach a bigger audience. Her feedback to me once was that I curse too much on my blogs. “Its good, but just don’t use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ because its embarrassing, don’t you want people to read and like you? They may not like you if you curse so much.”

I responded by saying that I’m not writing for people to like me. I’m not changing my writing style to show face, because I’m not like that in person. If you know me, I type how I talk. People tell me all the time that they read my content and it’s like they hear me reading it. I have thought of what I post biting me in the ass. As a journalist, we were taught to be professional all across the board. But that’s why I don’t see myself in hard news, because I feel like I have too much personality. I went on to tell my mom that whoever has a problem with seeing cuss words in my writing, doesn’t have to read. I was taught that whatever content you choose to write about attracts a certain audience, and it’s okay if everyone isn’t into it.

Simultaneously while I’m posting consistently, I noticed 2019 was the year that I gave less and less a fuck about my outward appearance. I’m a preschool teacher, I’m always in leggings, no makeup, and a whatever top, because I’m constantly on the move. Might get shit on, might get boogers on me, might have to clean the whole unit, I literally never know. Even on weekends, I found myself not caring how I looked. And there was some freedom in that. But it sometimes made me sad. I wasn’t putting effort into my appearance because I genuinely didn’t care and was too lazy to put on makeup. But at the same time, it made me happy that I was secure in myself that I didn’t feel the need to look a certain way all the time. I also wake up at 5 am, there is literally no time to get cute anymore.

I took “I don’t care,” to a whole new level. Appearance wise, body wise, and all the above. But I mean this in a good way. I found no point in complaining about my appearance. I put less importance on my outter appearance and worked on the kind of person I was on the inside. I learned that I can only control myself, my actions, and my emotions. I can’t control how others react or how others interpret things. I realized my toxic traits and try to work on them. I’m quick with my words when I’m upset, and I’m still trying to learn the meaning of restraint. That’s one thing where I should have shame! But it’ll take time to break bad habits.

I made it a point this year to not support any business or brand that did not support me as a bigger bodied woman. That being said, I stopped buying undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, and started supporting Aerie for their body inclusivity. It was hard for me because I was a die hard Victoria’s Secret fan for years. I’ve spent a lot of money at Victoria’s Secret and they had my brand loyalty. But when they made that comment about plus size women and trans women, I couldn’t. I could no longer support a company that didn’t care about plus sized women like me. I had no shame in vocalizing my reasons. And now, Aerie loyalty it is.

2019 I really opened up myself to the public. I had “walang hiya” in a lot of things I did, and it worked in my favor. Growing up, I was taught that having “no shame” was a bad thing. Now, I want to share that having “walang hiya” doesn’t always have to be negative. Being shameless in my writing, life, and appearance has helped me grow into a more secure woman.

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 🥂

One Year Later

One year later,

It’s my anniversary.

One year later,

I’m still working at the nursery.

This same time last year, I was finishing up school for good,

I was happy and excited, feeling as I should.

It was crazy that I could finally say, “Hell yeah, I’m graduated,”

Feeling all the emotions but mostly relieved and elated.

It’s my one year anniversary, please don’t congratulate me.

Please don’t remind me I’m not where I want to be.

To this day, graduating has been the highest of my highs,

But let me tell you something, and let me know if it applies.

Nobody tells you how low you can feel when your highest high is all done,

You worked so hard to reach the finish line, but the journey has just begun.

And I know there’s a couple of you done reading about my emo post-grad shit,

But some people reached out and said they can relate, so let me ramble on a bit.

If you’re feeling like me, this poem is dedicated to you.

You’re stuck in post-grad limbo, and you don’t know what to do.

Rejection email after rejection email, you tell yourself to keep applying.

People ask how the job search is going, and you give a half ass smile and say, “I’m still trying.”

High key embarrassed to admit that I’m not used to all of this,

I’m so used to achieving my goals, not shooting and then miss.

I don’t mean to sound cocky or over confident,

It’s just so different from what I’m used to – I’m feeling mad incompetent.

How ironic is it that the girl that planned her future step by step,

Is falling apart even with the “mise en place,” in prep?

A year ago, I thought I had it all figured out.

But now I’m so lost, and I ain’t faking this for writing clout.

So many emotions that constantly run through my head,

To be real I deal with this post-grad funk by staying in my bed.

It’s so hard to prove that you have what it takes when there’s so much competition,

I fantasize about my successful career, while I struggle to find an entry-level position.

But at the same time, I’m picky and I won’t just write for anything,

Keeping my writing voice and being real still means everything.

I refuse to sell out for a high paying job that doesn’t align with my beliefs,

I know that I got to start from the bottom and that’s what adds to my grief.

A year ago, I felt on top of the world and was ready to take on this new beginning,

Now a year later, I want to remember what it feels like to be winning.

Cole told me, “things change, rearrange, and so do I,”

He said it ain’t always for the better and he ain’t lie.

But I know this is a path I must walk with patience and my head up to the sky,

I’m a firm believer that what’s mine is mine, and if it’s meant for me it won’t pass me by.

I can’t wait for the day where I can look back and say,

“Damn, look how far we’ve come, you just took it day by day.”

But for now I walk through the valley of confusion,

Planning out your future to the T is really an illusion.

I’ve forced myself to just try to go with the flow,

Because when the timing is right my heart will truly know.

So I’m at that point in my life where I don’t know what to do,

And I realized it’s okay to be a little lost and not have a single clue.

But she’s resilient, and she’ll take this day by day,

She’s a writer, she won’t give up, she got so much more to say.

Much Needed Reunion

I know I usually talk about the negative effects of social media, but there are some positive perks.

I love how I can connect with people I’ve grown up with, people that have watched me grow and have helped in my upbringing, and people I want to keep in touch with. Social media gives us a chance to stay connected in certain people’s lives, regardless of distance and time. There’s some people I haven’t seen in over 5-10 years, but I could tell you what’s going on in their lives from what they post on social media. It’s kind of nice to stay in touch without really staying in touch.

With life and goals constantly on my mind, I admit that I have lost balance in keeping up and keeping in touch with friends. I guess that’s just life. We get busy, life happens, we start realizing there’s not enough hours in the day. In other words, I started adulting. And to be honest this shit is depressing. And I’m a little upset that nobody really told me how you gradually disconnect with friends and you realize you’re living your own ass life. And at some point it hits you, wait, I haven’t seen or talked to blah blah in years.

Anyways, y’all know I’ve been feeling a little disconnected and just not myself lately. Riding another wave of the post-grad blues has not been easy, I’ve been dealing with it by trying to talk and hangout with friends more.

This weekend my best friend of more than 15+ years baptized her son, and made me one of his primary godparents. I officially became Jalen’s Ninang. And it’s crazy. These are moments that me and April would talk about growing up. She’s been one of my best friends since 4th grade. We’d always talk about going through life together, being at each other’s weddings, being Ninangs to each other’s children, living on the same block and being neighbors (💀🤦🏻‍♀️), and all these milestone life events that we would share together. And here we are. Actually living it.

I don’t know why I’m surprised haha. Obviously these life moment were eventually going to happen. But it really got me like, wow, time really waits for no one. Cliché I know, but it really feels like just yesterday we were talking about all these “future events,” and this weekend, I stood behind her and watched her son get baptized.

After the baptism took place, I looked around in the crowd. And I saw a familiar face. I gasped and walked over in pure excitement to greet Mrs.Volpe. A person that means so much to me!

Mrs.Volpe was our school librarian, but she deserves the title of Mother of Epiphany. I attended this school from kindergarten to 8th grade. She literally watched me grow up right before her eyes, but we got really close during my middle school years. Like 6th grade to 8th grade is when I needed her the most.

Like I said in a previous post, by the time we hit 8th grade, for the most part, we’ve been riding with the same crew and classmates for almost 10 years. We ran deep with each other and gave some teachers hell just because we were a team and going through our rebellious phase. We were a hand full to say the least.

I admit that I was a rebellious kid. On a one-on-one basis, I was pretty well-liked by teachers. I was that student that gave you hell, but behind closed doors you hated to admit that I could connect with you on a personal level. And for just a second they could forget that I talked my ass off in class and questioned authority figures. Our whole class got a bad wrap, but for the most part I feel like I had a reason to my rebellion. I was always that kid that questioned authority figures that expected me to act a certain way just because they said so. The more they tried to control me and demanded respect, the more I resisted. That was just my nature. A true mess. Hahaha. Bless all of their hearts.

But since I had this reputation, sometimes I felt like I wasn’t given a fair chance most of the time. They already labeled most of us “the problem.” And it was like there was no changing any of their minds. And the person we would all run to would be Mrs.Volpe. And she would actually listen to us. Hear our side. When it was our fault, she would tell us. She wasn’t afraid to let us know when we were being little assholes. She’d try to make us see our teacher’s point of view. And even though we didn’t like it or what she had to say sometimes, she always told us the truth. But when we weren’t being treated fairly because of our prior reputations, she would also stand up for us. And that’s what a lot of us “rebellious trouble making kids” needed. Someone to atleast hear our side, to ride for us when everyone else was against us. And that was her. And to be honest, she was a lot of people’s go to person to vent to. She just got us. And during a fragile time in our early teenage years, she was our voice of reason. We all truly saw her as the mom of Epiphany, because she gave us an earful when we were in the wrong, but stood up for her little ducklings when they were being targeted. There are so many current students and alumni that look up to Mrs.Volpe, me included.

Mrs.Volpe is one of those people that I kept in touch with on Facebook. She’s never missed one of my birthdays without posting a sweet message on my wall. For every life event, she has always came through with a comment. She watched me grow up all through my Epiphany days, and has continued to watch me grow through social media. There has been multiple times where Mrs.Volpe has crossed my mind, and I wanted to message saying lets catch up, and I’d always tell myself I’d message by this day/date and forget. Or I’d plan to message and visit during my spring break, any vacation, etc., but didn’t come around to it. It’s a lame excuse, but this is real life. Things just get in the way and sometimes you don’t get to hangout with the people you want to. We had planned to grab lunch or dinner in August, but there was so much going on in Mrs.Volpe’s life as well, that we never got around to it.

And there she was. In the crowd. The person that has been cheering me on from the sidelines for so many years. We embraced and I couldn’t believe that she was at Jalen’s baptism. My heart was full! Especially since I’ve been feeling weird and off lately, this is the reunion my heart needed.

At the reception she met my boyfriend. And it was something special. I’m telling you, she was the mom of Epiphany, so it really meant a lot for her to meet the guy I’ve been with for 4.5 years. We talked and we caught up, and it was such a good time. I think I ran into her at Safeway once, like almost 5 years ago. Come to think of it, I think she met Christian that day, but it was a brief catch up. But other than that, I haven’t had one of Mrs.Volpe’s in person pep talks in 10 years. I graduated Epiphany in 2009. And here we are 2019 catching up. Funny how life works.

We caught up and I told her how I’m currently a preschool teacher and jokingly said I’m getting my karma for being such a rebellious child. She couldn’t believe it. How much time has changed! She expressed how proud of me she is, and I really needed that. She has always been cheering me on from afar. And I’m so blessed to have a person like her on my team. On my side. It has been 10 years but I know if I needed her she’d be right there. Like she has always been.

It was then I realized that she is everything I want to be as a teacher. Even though teaching isn’t my forever career job, it is still currently my job. And talking to her on Saturday made me realize that I want to be a Mrs.Volpe in someone’s life. Tell them like it is, but hear them out. Be firm when you need to be, but show so much love and support at the same time. And if I can be atleast half of what she is as a teacher, I’d be doing a great job.

This is a woman who has seen and witnessed her fair share of heartbreak and pain. But you would never realize by how she lives her life and treats others. Hands down one of the sweetest, loving, supportive, and most of all happiest people I have ever met in my life. And she has blessed so many Epiphany students and families with her presence and support.

It was important for my boyfriend to meet her, because I really feel like she knows the true me. She has witnessed honor roll Marinelle, rebellious Marinelle, angry Marinelle, heart broken Marinelle, and all the above. And I feel like she’s a person from my past that he should meet. I never thought they ever would honestly. I always imagined she’d meet him at my wedding or something haha. I’ve described her to Christian on multiple occasions as the only teacher who was ever on our side. And now he finally got to meet and talk to the woman I’ve talked about for all these years.

I told April, “Your party is what I needed.”

And its true. I’ve been feeling off and emo as hell riding this post-grad wave. Who are you? What do you want to do? What are you going to make of yourself? What career path are you going to take? How will you accomplish that? What’s your next goal? By what deadline? What are you doing with your life? Figure it out. Come up with a plan. Hurry. Time is ticking.

And for a second, those anxieties and worries faded. I was surrounded by my best friend of 15 years celebrating her son, my godson. I was reconnecting with a teacher I adore and look up to. My man is with me and around people that I grew up with. Life is good.

I needed this in so many way. Seeing people that take you back. Back to less stressful times. It took me all the way back to the times when meeting up for the movies was our biggest issue. 🤣 It was a meeting that my heart so desperately needed. That even though time is moving and life goes on, these people that have been with me since day 1 are still with me, are riding with me, and still rooting me on from the sidelines. They remind me of who I am and where I come from. They took me back to simpler times.

In Her Shoes

Christmas 2017

Around this time I had just landed my current job, located deep in San Francisco. I was to start right after New Year’s break. New year, new job, new transportation route.

I guess you can say it’s our family tradition to exchange Christmas gifts after returning home from my dad’s side’s Christmas Eve celebration. We get home during the early AM hours. My sisters and parents will all get settled down, change into pajamas, put away gifts we received, and eventually meet upstairs at the livingroom to exchange the gifts we got for each other.

My older sister handed me my gift. I forgot what the main gift was, but I sure as hell remember the 2nd gift. I unwrapped the littler present to discover a pink can of pepper spray, keychain addition.

“…uh, okay?” I probably said. My little sister got the same gift jr.

“You’re gonna work in San Francisco now and be walking home at night. You never know.” Spoken like a true Ate.

At the time, I probably thought it was a bit dramatic, but was thankful because my broke ass didn’t have to buy it for myself.

I never put my pepper spray to use, but roaming through San Francisco all hours of the night – from night classes to just being out – I realized this was something I should’ve had a long time ago. Especially as a woman.

It made me feel more safe being out. Walking home from Bart, I would keep it in one hand, tucked under my sleeve. Paranoid, I know. I knew I most likely wouldn’t need it, but I wanted to be prepared at all times. I always thought of scenarios where I have my pepper spray in my backpack or something, and then something happens where I need it, and it’s not like I’m going to say, “Wait, ma’am-sir, pause, I have pepper spray in my backpack if you could so kindly wait for me to retrieve it…” Nah. If my parents taught me anything, its trust nobody, and be aware of your surroundings.

December 2018

Almost a full year of having said pepper spray, not once did I ever have to use it. However, I came close to using it during that racist Uber ride, you know, the story I tell on “This Is America.” But I thankfully never had to actually push that button.

My cousins and I took our first big cousins trip, and we were 23 1/2 people deep in SoCal. We decided to look around Downtown Disney, and so much had changed since the last couple times I’ve been. There were metal detectors and stop gates. I don’t know why that shocked me, but I do understand the “why” and the necessity of these check points. I gave them my bag and hella forgot my pepper spray was in there.

“You’re going to have to toss this out or we need to take it.” The police officer told me.

I must say, I was that bitch. “What?! Why? I need it. If I give it to you, will you give it back to me later when I leave?”

The answer was no. I debated with them for about 2 minutes before I finally caved in. Bye bye pepper spray. I was annoyed about parting ways with my pepper spray, and my cousin thought it was lame too. He reassured me that he would try to get it back for me when we left.

When we made our way out of Downtown Disney, my cousin tried to talk his talk with the police officers.

“But come on, she works in downtown San Francisco! It gets dangerous! That’s how she feels safe! It makes her feel like a woman!” He told them, halfway serious and halfway laughing.

At the end of it, I didn’t get it back. I was more so irritated over the fact that I had to buy a replacement. I didn’t realize how unsafe I would feel walking home without it though. When work started up again after the school’s winterbreak, I dreaded walking home by myself. It was still winter time, so it got dark around 5 pm.

I was scared to walk home with my earphones on. I turned around behind me often. I kept my phone and valuables tucked away and hidden. I would even tuck in my chain so it wasn’t visible at first glance. I’m a tough girl, and I’m sure I could fend for myself and fight like a badass, but what terrified me was being defenseless against someone with a weapon.

But then I thought, “I’ve had the pepper spray for over a year and never had to use it. I’m good until I get a replacement.”

Early months of 2019

I will admit that it took weeks to even maybe a month or 2 to replace my pepper spray. It actually took a scary encounter for me to get it asap.

I was walking home from Bart. It was really dark out, even though it had to be around 6-6:30 pm. There’s 2 guys about to cross the street, they’re about 1.5 steps into crossing, but then they turn and look at me, then at each other, and they trade words. They turn back around. And they step back on the sidewalk and stand behind me, as we’re waiting to cross the street, perpendicular to where they were about to cross.

“Oh fuck nah,” I thought to myself.

I started walking to cross the street, and of course they followed. I’m not even trying to throw shade, but they were legit probably homeless, high on drugs, or both. One was wrapped in a blanket, and they both seemed like they haven’t bathed. Once I got to the sidewalk and they were still following me, I got a bad feeling. So I turned into the dollar store so they could walk off and leave me alone.

Negative. They waiting outside of the dollar store. Just standing there, looking at me, and waiting for me to walk out.

I. Think. The. Fuck. Not.

I started freaking out a little bit. I pretended to shop around and would look up at the exit every now and then. They were still there. Guarding the door, I would definitely have to pass them to exit. I panicked.

Should I call an Uber? That’s such a waste of money, my house is literally 4 blocks away. I’d have to pass them anyways to call an Uber. Do I tell the workers? But what are they even gonna do?

I started going to the back aisles so I was no longer in plain sight. I started dodging, going deeper into the store. Making it hard for them to pinpoint exactly where I was. One of the guys entered the dollar store, the other stayed outside. Then the 2nd man went inside and pretended to be looking at stuff closest to the exit. I inched closer to the exit and waited for both of their backs to be turned. I was legit calculating my moves, if I fuck up and exit at the wrong time, it’ll get creepy real quick.

Thankfully, they both had their backs towards the door, and I saw my opportunity and ran. And when I mean ran, I literally mean ran. I ran out of the dollar store, probably looking like I stole something. I ran for about a block and a half, looking behind me to see if they were following or running as well. I didn’t see them.

That experience was so crazy. I felt so unsafe and defenseless. A day or 2 later I got a new mace pepper spray.

It made me sad to know that I only feel safe when I know I have spray on me. And even with pepper spray, sometimes we still don’t feel safe. And I know that this is the sad reality of a lot of women. The extra steps women (not to forget gay and trans people) take to feel safe is mindboggling. From what you carry, to what shoes you wear, to what clothes you wear, to what route you walk, etc. We learn at a young age to be aware of our surroundings and those around us more than the average heterosexual male. “Not safe” is engraved in our minds. And it sucks when real events support that theory.