Last Year

Every first of the month, I stalk Susan Miller’s Twitter to see if she posted her monthly horoscopes. May 1st was no different. I went on and read about my Aquarius horoscope for the month of May. I paused. Wait, MAY?! It’s crazy to me how we are already in the month of May, and I can’t help but feel like this pandemic is speeding up and slowing down time simultaneously. To me at least, it’s like ever since March 2020, the months are just bleeding into each other, and all sense of time is completely fucked up. The pandemic has been around for such an extended period of time that pre-COVID life seems like ages ago.

I couldn’t believe that it’s May 2021 already. Not in the actual sense – given that I don’t live under a rock – but it’s crazy to me how fast time is flying, and how much things have changed. It made me think back to this time last year, and I realized that it is the anniversary of when my life drastically changed. To those that have kept up with my journey, I bet you’re like “omg, girl, you moved out, calm down.” To others, moving out is something exciting. For me, it was one of the most stressful moments of my life to date. Sounds dramatic but it’s true.

Around this time last year I got an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity to move out of my parents’ place. It was the end of April when this opportunity was brought to my attention, and little did I know that for the next 2 and a half months, I would be in a constant state of stress. This opportunity would give me the privilege to start saving money, live in expensive ass San Francisco, and take the next step in my relationship – but it also gave me headaches and countless sleepless nights. From the end of April 2020 – July 2020, this decision weighed heavy on my mind 24/7.

At that time, I just wanted to look into the future. I wanted to channel my inner “That’s So Raven,” and see what my outcome would be. I was so mentally stuck and conflicted that I didn’t know how to go about my life anymore. I was put in a position where whatever decision I chose, whether I accepted or denied, my life would drastically change either way. I was so stressed out. I feared change and didn’t want to mess up my family dynamic, but at the same time I was so curious to know what life would be like if I accepted the opportunity. There were pros and cons to both decision, and I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I begged the universe, my ancestors that have passed away, God – anybody or anything – to give me a sign on what the fuck to do with my life.

One of the months while I was in silent mental torture, I read my horoscope forecast for the new month. I can’t remember which month it was, but I remember reading it in awe. My horoscope basically described that I was going to be put in a position where I had to make a big decision. Now here me out, I love reading my horoscopes. It’s something that I think is fun to read and feeds my curiosity of the universe, future, and my life. But I don’t make big decisions in my life based on what my horoscope says. At this time though, I wanted a sign. I read my horoscope by Susan Miller, and not only did the whole thing seem very relevant to my life and my current scenario at the time – it seemed creepily spot on. It said I was going to have to make a tough decision, but whatever decision I chose, I could never go back to how life was before. Susan Miller described this transition like as if I were crossing a bridge, and that bridge falling apart right after I made it to the other side. Meaning, I was moving forward with my life, and whatever decision I made could not be undone. She also mentioned how I would make a commitment for at least 2 years – which tripped me the fuck out because the deal that was on the table required at least a 2 year agreement. I was shook. The universe doesn’t lie.

However, I didn’t make the decision I made because my horoscope was spot on at the time. But I do think of my mindset one year ago, and how I so desperately wanted to know what life would be like if I chose either decision – to move or not to move. It’s like I wanted a crystal ball to help me see what was the “right choice.” A year ago, I was so stressed out and really felt like I couldn’t see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like no matter what I chose, someone would be upset or disappointed with me. Fast forward to now, the present day, I look back and think damn, 1 decisions really changed my whole ass life. And here I am now, 1 year later, in a totally different headspace, happy with my choices, and growing as a person. It’s crazy what time can do. It’s true that 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc. – your life can drastically change. I kind of chuckle at how stressed I was a year ago – not because it’s funny, but because I should’ve known I’d be just fine. I’m exactly where I need to be.

Family Traditions

What’s one family tradition you’d like to carry on in the future

When I was younger, my family and I had plenty of traditions, and I’ve always wanted to uphold all of them for my future family and kids. From meeting for Sunday lunch at Mama’s house after 1 o’clock mass on my mom’s side, to opening presents right at midnight on my dad’s side, these are all little traditions that I remember as a kid. As us cousins and kids got older though, the traditions started to change as well. Meeting weekly became hard given people’s changing schedules, availability, etc. Waiting until midnight to open presents got harder to do since the adults were getting older and struggling to stay awake, as well as the kids being so young that staying up until midnight was more of a hassle than a treasured tradition. Like everything in life, things change.

Especially with big families, it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. Everyone’s schedule is all fucked up, other priorities, some just don’t end up coming, people move or live far away, and with time, everyone just kind of branches out and does their own thing as their own little families expand. Major holidays and gatherings like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Tatay Jacinto’s birthday, Mama and Tatay Celso’s death anniversaries, are all days out of the year that are basically mandatory for my family. Those are the holidays that I take seriously and know that I can’t miss. As I get older, in the back of my mind I’m thinking of how I’m going to celebrate holidays with my kids. I quickly realize that my family events and holidays will be something that I have to thoroughly plan out as well, because I’ll have a whole other side and family that also celebrate those holidays.

I think back to pre-COVID, when my older cousins with kids have to leave some holiday parties early to make it to their in-law’s side. Some alternate year to year what holiday they will spend with which side. The compromise of divvying out holidays is something I know is in my near future, especially since I do have plans on having a family of my own one day. To be honest, it’s kind of foolish of me to previously think that every single tradition I had growing up would be continued when the time comes for me to have a family. But, a girl could dream. I came to the unpleasant realization that I can’t uphold all of those traditions – but that’s okay.

But one tradition that I would like to carry on in the future is celebrating “death anniversaries” for family members who have passed on. This is a tradition that my mom’s side upholds. For outsiders, it may be a little weird to celebrate the day when somebody died, but for us, it’s a reminder of the departed’s life. It’s a time to pray for your loved one’s soul that they continue to rest in peace on the anniversary of their passing. Growing up Catholic, anything surrounding death usually involves prayer. Given people’s differences in religion, and my own beliefs on religion, I would take this tradition and tweak a few things – turning it into a celebration of life, either on the death anniversary, or the birthday of the departed, maybe even both days.

This is something that my mom’s side practiced since I was a little kid. My mom’s eldest brother passed away before I was even born, but I have fond memories of us praying for him and having a bigger than normal Sunday lunch to celebrate. The painted portrait of Uncle Rolly was displayed every death anniversary. They would light candles and gather in the Livingroom of Mama’s house to begin the rosary. Even though I never knew who he was or got the privilege to meet him, I knew of him because we celebrated him and remembered him on his death anniversary.

Mama would orchestrate Uncle Rolly’s death anniversary rosary. And when she and Tatay Celso passed away, we continued the tradition for them. When July 12th and November 10th roll around, I know we are due for a family party. I black out that weekend because I know we will be celebrating with a family gathering and prayer service, no question about it. Because everyone is off doing their own thing, this is the 1-3 times out of the year we are all guaranteed to be together as a family to remember a family member who is no longer with us. It gives the family time to catch up, bond, and see each other. If nobody told you it was a death anniversary party, you would think it’s somebody’s party. And that’s basically what it is – a huge party with a lot of food and people.

Celebrating death anniversaries is definitely a tradition I want to continue for future generations to come. I think it’s a beautiful thing to honor someone in the family who is no longer there physically. It gives a chance for the younger children who never knew them, to still get the gist of what the person was like through stories and memories. It takes a sad memory – for those who remember – and turns it into a celebration of life and good times for the people who are still around. Even if this tradition evolves over time and eventually turns into a dinner at a restaurant instead of one of the siblings hosting it at their house, it is still the same concept of celebrating and remembering someone who has passed on.

That’s something that is very important to me – letting my future children know of their relatives that have passed on that played a big part in their parents’ lives. I’m really big on family history, and making sure that nobody is forgotten. Celebrating someone’s birthday or death anniversary is also a great way to cope the loss of someone important in your life, even if it is years after the fact. For my Mama and Tatay Celso, we celebrated every year until COVID hit. Even the random 2-9 year death anniversaries, because we want to remember and we want to keep their memory alive, letting them know that even though they’re not here physically anymore, we still celebrate and remember them. It’s super important to me for my future children to know their lineage and know where they came from, who were the people that helped raised me, and how we remember and honor those that came before us.

How Do You Go About Dropping a Friendship?

Recently, I caught up with a dear friend of mine over the phone. They updated me about their life, career choices, dreams, aspirations, the whole run down. I love that feeling of reconnecting, even though we send memes throughout the day everyday. You know, you have those designated people and group chats on Instagram that you send your funny content to, political memes, world events, maybe some gossip here and there, and you are fairly close. You’re technically “connected” everyday, but there’s work, different schedules, and life in general – nobody got time to give constant updates every time. So it felt good to catch up and talk about our lives and dilemmas. We got on the topic of friendships, loyalty, and letting friendships go that are toxic or drama-filled. We are usually on the same page, but we had opposing views on some aspects.

“You should write about this on your blog,” they said as we wrapped up the topic of cutting off friends, “Like, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but friendship edition!”

“Oh my god, yeah, I might just,” I said, even though I had never watched it. But, I got the gist. This is actually a topic I wanted to write about for some time, but was always hesitant because I didn’t want anyone to think I was @-ing them. But I mean, if the shoe fits…

Friendship breakups are so under-rated. Sometimes, it’s equivalent to a romantic break up because you can feel betrayed, hurt, taken advantage of, and conflicted about things ending. Unlike a romantic breakup though, we don’t really think of the possibility that things can end in a platonic friendship. It can be blindsiding, emotional, and a difficult decision to make. Other times, it’s as clear as day that the friendship needs to end, but just because what needs to be done is clear, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It can be very confusing as well if you’re on the receiving end of the cut off.

This phone call led to this question: How do you go about ending a friendship?

My friend vented about their current situation with a former friend. Long story short, my friend was on the receiving end of being cut off, but for no apparent or obvious reason. I’m very neutral and would tell my friend straight up if they messed up, as they shared all the possibilities of why the friendship could’ve ended. But, I honestly couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like it was a 1 way argument, but without the arguing and communication. Only that person knew why they cut off my friend, but never communicated any prior frustration or conflict. Throughout the phone call, my friend kept bringing up how they wished this former friend would just communicate what was bothering them, instead of just ending the friendship with no clear reason.

I agreed that it was weird for their former friend to just stop talking to them and cut them off. Especially since the former friend didn’t communicate anything that would even hint towards frustration or being upset. In fact, the former friend would just gossip to other people, and it got back to my friend, and only then did they find out why they were cut off, but still not having a definite answer coming from the source. It’s like the other person withheld information purposely so my friend could wonder what was going on, and decided to gossip about it and be fake in person. That’s what I thought was weird. It’s one thing to just drop someone without any context. But it’s another thing to drop them, talk shit about them, but still hangout and act like everything is cool in group settings.

“Yeah, that’s some weirdo shit,” I told my friend.

My friend wished they were aware of what they “did wrong,” so they could address it, communicate about it, patch up the friendship, and move on. They believed that it was weird that some people really suck that much at communication and would rather throw away a friendship than openly communicate about what bothered them. We got on the topic of “keeping it real,” with our friends, and went over the different scenarios and instances where we would have to check certain friends in the past. We both agreed that we had no problem checking friends when they’re in the wrong or doing something we don’t agree with. I agreed that in this specific instance, the friendship they lost was probably for the best since it seemed like the other person was pretty fake and liked to play that high school shit. You know, when you find out “your friend” is talking about you behind your back but acting tight to your face – the shit we’re clearly too old for.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in some instances, I was that friend – minus the acting cool to your face. In this specific instance – yes, I felt the one who ended the friendship should’ve communicated something to my friend. But I noticed in general, when I’m cutting someone off, I rarely give a reason why too. There has been very few friendships I’ve had that ended badly. But at the same time there are some friendships I’ve had that ended with obvious fights that resulted in the termination of said friendships. But for the most part, I’m the Homer Simpson meme disappearing into the bushes. My only difference from my friend’s former friend is that I don’t play it fake. You’ll know where I stand.

“Really?! That’s sooo weirdddd!” My friend said when I made this revelation.

I explained my reasoning. For me, when there is a clear fall out and fight, obviously I’ll communicate my side, say my peace, and if I can’t patch it up from there with time, then I just cut it off. But as much as possible, I try to avoid bitter endings with former friends. To be honest, there have been very few occasions where I had to tell off a friend right before I snip them. Very rarely will I be so done with someone that we fight about something for a prolonged period of time to the point where I don’t think I can continue with the friendship. If the friendship is worth it, and there is respectful communication, then I don’t cut people off. I don’t think I’ve had too many situations like that where the friendship was so over that I cut them off, deleted them off social media, blocked them, deleted their number, etc. It ain’t that serious.

I’m open with all of my friends and tell them how it is. But when I start to notice patterns in friendships and in their character, I just take a mental note. Especially if that friend did nothing to me personally to make me mad or question the friendship, it wouldn’t seem right to call someone out on their character and decisions when it isn’t directed towards me. If it comes up in conversation or if they ask for my opinion, obviously I’ll say my peace, but when I notice patterns like selfishness, being untrustworthy, and things of that nature, I just observe and remember for future reference. There is power in silence, and power in moving differently towards them when you see them for who they are. But there’s no reason to end on bad terms.

And at that point, there is no point to bring up or confront people when you realize you don’t want to surround yourself with friends that move like them. To me at least, there’s no point to let it be known that, “hey, I see through your actions that you’re actually not someone I want to associate with.” It’s a waste of time especially if that person is living the life that they want to. It just doesn’t make sense to me to call someone out on their character flaws if I already made my decision in letting the friendship gracefully drift. I don’t want any tension, especially if there is no specific fall out that made me want to end the friendship. Nowadays, I noticed that I just distance myself from people I no longer want a friendship with. Not because they did something to me, but because I notice traits and habits that I don’t want in a friend. No bad blood, no hard feelings, no big fight to make the cut off official – just a mutual understanding that the friendship has drifted.

Friendship break ups can definitely hurt. Sometimes there’s obvious reasons why it ended, and sometimes there isn’t. I realize that my explanation for silence and distancing myself can be the same explanation my friend’s former friend had. Sometimes you can talk it out, and sometimes you will be returned with radio silence, so I guess to each their own. For me, I think silence and being cordial is the best way to go about it especially if they did nothing wrong to you personally and you just come to the realization that you just don’t want to fuck with them like that. However, if there is a specific problem or event that led to me feeling some type of way, I’d definitely communicate it to a friend before I start distancing myself.

Because let’s be real, in this cut off culture, anyone and everyone gets triggered and will snip you and broadcast why all over social media. It doesn’t have to be like that. Handling friendship breakups with class is key. But friendship break up’s shouldn’t be the answer to everything. That’s always a red flag to me, when people rotate their friends like the seasons, and have countless fall outs with a lot of former friends. At that point, you really got to sit and look at the bigger picture – who is the common factor. Some friendships can turn toxic real fast, and it’s okay to gracefully leave a friendship.

And just because the friendship is over, doesn’t mean all the great memories are now soured. That is what I took away from that phone call that night. When friendships end, it’s okay to look back and reminisce and be a little sad about the good times. Those memories don’t have to be ruined because the friendship is over. It’s okay to gather your information and realize that you guys don’t see eye to eye on certain things. And it’s okay to let the friendship naturally drift without conflict.

How do you go about dropping a friendship?

Anti-Vax to Fully Vaccinated

I walk through Moscone Center’s doors and I am happily greeted by the staff every step of the way. It’s not crowded and doesn’t look all over the place. In fact, everything is so organized and in order. For some reason I expected chaos, long lines, and spending a good chunk of time there. But from the long row of check-in booths, to the stickers on the floor that tell you what direction to go in, to the sitting area where you wait with 2 big clocks on each side, everything was planned out accordingly and in a very efficient way. Each of my visits for the 1st and 2nd dose, I was in and out in less than 20 minutes.

When I entered Moscone Center, for just a second, I forgot I was on my way to get a dose of the vaccine. I expected the vibe to be serious, but I was surprised to find a light-hearted, welcoming, and joyous atmosphere inside. Workers were dancing happily to the music while escorting you to the next step. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with how this vaccine site was operating. Even more so surprised with myself, since I never expected myself to be so eager to take a vaccine.

I’m the type of person that only visits the doctor’s when I absolutely have to. That’s just how I was raised to look at the hospital – you don’t go unless it’s a must, if it’s not that serious, you treat that shit at home and drink water. I would go for the necessary documentation, like if I needed a TB shot for work. I have all the vaccines that I needed to go to school, but if it’s not required, I wouldn’t take it. So when COVID happened last year and talks of a vaccine started circulating, I was dead set on not taking it once it was available.

Like many others, I just didn’t trust putting foreign things in my body. Trust is a big reason why people refuse to take the vaccine. There’s a distrust in the medical field, in doctor’s advice, and how this pandemic is being handled in general. There’s just so much opinions and beliefs that all point to people not trusting the vaccine. And I totally get it. But being in the pandemic for over a year and seeing what effects it had on people, businesses, and people’s every day lives, it really made me reconsider.

I can only speak from my own experiences, and I know at the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinions and are in control of their own bodies. But the last year alone has really changed my perspective on the medical field and people in general. This pandemic brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly out of people. For me personally, COVID really showed me who took the guidelines seriously, and who was just out for themselves, acting selfishly for their own pleasure and not for the safety of others and those around them. I found myself so conflicted with trying to keep myself safe, my family safe, but still trying to keep peace of mind. It was so hard not seeing my friends for a long time, and nothing to do but stay home, watch the news, and be fearful of what’s spreading.

From mid-March until June 2020, I woke up everyday and had the same routine. I would anxiously watch the news, seeing cases rising in California, and seeing the effects of what COVID had on my community. I watched Gavin Newsom make his speech everyday, his raspy voice calm and collected, while California watched in uncertainty. I got used to life indoors – not going out to eat to meet up with friends, wearing masks, not seeing people I regularly saw before, and so forth. When we first shutdown in March 2020, I never would’ve thought that over a year later, we would be in a similar spot. I had no idea that life would still be like this in 2021. When news of the vaccine distribution started going around, I was totally against it. I wasn’t in the first tier, so it didn’t really matter if I wanted it or not, it would still be a long way until I could even make that decision.

Initially, I was against the vaccine, but didn’t really have solid reasons why. For some reason, I believed that more people would be against the vaccine than being for it. To my surprise, it seemed the opposite. I had some time to think about whether or not I wanted the vaccine since I’m a childcare worker. I definitely wanted to wait a while first to see how people reacted to the vaccine before I decided if I wanted it or not. To my surprise, my older relatives got the vaccine. Most importantly, my 97 year old Tatay got it. That really made me change my mind. I wanted things to go back to normal so bad, and finally, the vaccine was that hope for me.

At first, I wanted nothing to do with the vaccine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t get vaccinated. Since the beginning, I took the pandemic seriously. I follow the rules, I wear a mask, I keep my distance, I trust the doctors’ opinions, but also know that this pandemic is something new to everyone – they’re not always going to be right, so I keep cautious anyways. I despised people that refused to wear masks, not follow the rules, and make a commotion because they feel that staying inside is taking away their rights. I was tired of everyone being only about themselves and being selfish – helping to spread the virus around because of their own selfishness and carelessness. Though in the beginning I was anti-COVID vaccination, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted life to go back to normal, if I want to keep myself and those around me safe, and if I wanted to help end this madness, this is what I needed to do. Not believing in the validity of the vaccine would be contradictory to what I’ve been practicing this whole pandemic – which is being safe, believing in the severity of this virus, and playing my part in reducing the spread.

I didn’t know how bad I wanted the vaccine until I couldn’t get an immediate appointment. When it was finally my tier’s turn to get the vaccine, I was in no rush. I saw that there were a lot of appointments through Moscone Center, but didn’t sign up right away. At that point I knew I wanted the vaccine, but didn’t make it a priority because I was still a little nervous about it. That all changed when I realized Tatay already had his appointments to get vaccinated. I read that people who are fully vaccinated and are not part of the same household could be indoors maskless. Suddenly, I wanted to be fully vaccinated right then and there. I desperately refreshed my phone with no luck, everything was booked. This pandemic has taken a toll on Tatay’s memory. In the 2-5 minute visits that we make to his house every Sunday, he questions why we have masks on. At 97 years old, he is not aware of the pandemic, and it breaks my heart to slowly see him not remember who we are, where he is, or what time frame he’s living in anymore. I’m anticipating the day I can remove my mask at Tatay’s house, hoping that my face triggers his memory, to be able to give him a hug hello and goodbye without feeling anxious about it. And that day draws near as I just got my second dose.

Never in a hundred years did I think that I would be desperate to be vaccinated. I was hesitant because this is all so new. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if people back in the day had the same mentality for Chickenpox, Tuberculosis, and all these other diseases that are basically no threat now and not common, we would still be battling those same diseases at an alarming rate right now. Nobody thinks twice on why children need certain vaccines to get into school because they have been a requirement for some time. I believe that’s where the COVID vaccine is headed – it’ll be a required vaccine to get to attend schools, etc. And it only seems like a big deal right now because we are the first wave of people getting it. But with time, herd immunity will kick in, and we will slowly go back to where we were before the pandemic.

The past year has had so much change. People have been isolating themselves, nervous to go out, and worried for their health. For me, getting the vaccine is a glimpse of hope. Not only am I protecting myself, but protecting my family, people I come in contact with, and even the people that don’t want to get the vaccine. I know to each their own – I was anti-COVID vax, but changed my mind. And I know there will be a lot of people who won’t change their mind. But speaking for only me – I chose to believe in science, even if I’m a little uneasy. This year alone has proved that staying home and living the lockdown life works, but isn’t going to rid the world of COVID. I’m optimistic about the future, as I see cases dropping and things scheduling to move up into the next tier.

The sticker board where you can place the sticker they give you with your time stamp on when you can leave 15 minutes after your shot, was near the exit of Moscone Center. I don’t believe it was there when I got my first dose, but noticed it on my way out after my 2nd dose. Seeing this wall reassures me that things are looking up.

The Picture Hoarder

As a kid, I was never into video games like my sisters were. They had their own Nintendo DS, but I never cared for one. I was more into TV shows, talking on the house phone with my friends, drawing fake Myspace’s for my Bratz dolls (yes, you read that right), and taking pictures. Back in the day it was a ritual to bring a disposable camera (holy shit, that makes me feel old. Haha) to school events. It was especially a must to bring a camera to the last day of school. I brought a disposable camera every last day of school since the third grade. The last day of school always gave me mixed emotions. I was happy to be out of school and on summer break, but at the same time I was sad that I wouldn’t be seeing my friends as often, because some even moved away. Also, the next school year didn’t guarantee that my friend group would be put in the same class. I was happy to have my camera to take pictures in the present moment of all the fun, friends, and memories.

I loved to document all of my last days of school, family parties, field trips, and special events. Getting my pictures developed at Costco was one of my highlights for the summer. Especially with the disposable cameras – you just never know how the pictures are going to turn out. Then in the 7th or 8th grade, I invested in a digital camera. I saved up all of my money for this purchase, and was so excited to take it to school and family events. I’ve always been a photo hoarder, but getting the camera really stepped up my game. It gave me the opportunity to not only have the pictures as hard copies, but digital copies as well. I was so hyped to buy SD cards for my camera to make sure that I always had them backed up online, and on a chip. Deleting photos was really hard for me, and on an 8th grader salary, buying SD cards got pricey. But I did it anyways because I refused to delete memories even if they were uploaded online.

Now as an adult, my obsession with saving pictures is basically the same – but grew as technology got better. My partner doesn’t get why I feel the need to keep pictures of basically the same thing from different angles. I’m that friend that wants more than 1 picture from different angles and heights, but will still keep them all regardless. I’ve gone to the extent of getting a 200 GB SD card for my phone, but also backing everything up on the computer and on my phone that I pay for yearly for storage. That’s basically thousands of photos and videos saved on 3 different platforms – and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I have had my fair share of files being deleted, phone being stolen, and XYZ that has resulted in me losing my pictures. When it’s time to get a new phone, I always try to make sure that nothing will get deleted. That’s honestly one of my worst fears because my photos mean so much to me.

I love pictures – even if I’m not in them. I’m an extremely sentimental person, and even at a young age I’ve felt the need to preserve and remember memories and certain points in my life. Subconsciously, I am keeping all of my pictures because I know that there will be a time where I look back and some people won’t be with me anymore, or times have changed, or people have moved away. Pictures make me super happy to look back on, but can also give me an overwhelming feeling of sadness, knowing I can never go back to those moments and relive it with the people in the pictures. It’s like reliving parts of my life, or seeing my life from my point of view. When moments pass, all we have are memories and pictures.

I guess in a way, I fear that I will forget. That’s why I find it hard to delete pictures that ultimately have no importance. Like a picture of the sky, or a sign, or my food, all of these things that I can do without on my backup system that would clear a lot of room on my $29.99 a year for 200 GB. But I love getting little notifications letting me see what I did on that day 4 years ago, and so forth, even if it is random everyday mundane things. I’m so busy pushing forward, trying to get to the next goal, next stage in my life, that looking back on what was is comforting. It’s nice to live in the moment, but also have something to look back on, like a little souvenir from that occasion.

Especially with my 97 year old Tatay, pictures are important. Pre-COVID, my extended family would visit and have dinner at Tatay’s every other Sunday. But since COVID, we have yet to have another family gathering in his house, especially since he is high risk. Stopping these visits really took a toll on his memory and health. When my family and I stop by to say hi for less than 5 minutes, he doesn’t remember us with masks on. Recently, we’ve been showing him photos of him and us, or him and his other grandchildren, in hopes that it will trigger some memory. I’m happy to dig through my collection and hope to find something that will get him to remember us.

I’m notorious for saving close to every picture I take on my camera roll to my SD card and then backing them up to my cloud. I am fully aware and admit that I am a memory hoarder. It’s such a mix of emotions, knowing that you’re living in the moment and documenting what is happening right then and there. And then weeks, months, years down the road you forget about that memory until you come across those photos again. And you relive those moments, remembering the little things, down to your outfit, how those shoes were bothering you because you were just breaking them in, what food you were eating, how you got there because you took a picture in your Uber, and all these little details that would’ve been forgotten. And for a moment, you’re taken back to that time. I love getting those little reminders like, “8 years ago on this day you were doing this…” It gives me a second to pause, and appreciate the memories I made and documented with the people I was closest to at the time. I’m very sentimental in that way. And sometimes I picture myself as an old woman, when I’m about Tatay’s age, looking through all the pictures that I’ve backed up over the years, remembering all the good times, all the people that were a part of my life, reminiscing and trying to remember the life I lived.

Dreamer

What’s the one thing you’d never do and why?

This prompt had me stuck for the longest. But to answer it plain and simple, the one thing I’d never do is give up on my dreams to be a published writer. It seems like a very reasonable thing to uphold, but as I navigate through my young adult life, I have come to realize that this is not the case. Not everything has a clear cut answer or obvious road to follow. However, what has always been important to me is being true to myself – even if my life choices don’t make any sense to anyone else.

When I came across this prompt, I discussed it with my partner back and forth for about 30 minutes. To him, this question was easy to answer. He started listing all the things he would never do, but it was more so things he’d never do in the literal sense. For example, I could easily say I would never do hard drugs, be a basketball player, spend $50,000 on a collectible item, I’d never kill anyone, and the list goes on. Those are definitely things I know I could never do, but I wanted to dig deeper. My partner laughed and was like, “oh what, you’re gonna say something like: I’ll never give up” ? We laughed briefly about how cliché that phrase is, but I paused in reflection. I sat on the prompt for over an hour, while he played his game on the phone with his friends in the kitchen. When he plays, I usually try to write some paragraphs on my upcoming blog post. However, he came back in almost 2 hours later, and I had my laptop open with basically nothing typed out except the prompt you see quoted at the top.

“You’re going to make fun of me but… I think I am gonna write about not giving up,” I said exhausted with the writer’s block I faced that night.

That phrase, “I’ll never give up,” is so broad. That’s part of the reason why we mocked the answer originally because it’s so cliché and opened ended. That phrase is so overplayed, and usually whoever is saying it is bullshitting, not being honest, and just saying it for fake motivation, to have people view them in a certain light, or I don’t know what. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that statement is entirely true when it comes to my writing career. Don’t get it twisted – I give up on a lot of things – people, projects, some ways of thinking, etc. That’s why I was so hesitant to write about “not giving up.”

But when I narrowed it down to not giving up on my writing career, I knew that this is something I’m already living by in my every day life. Growing up, my parents never tried to push me into any field of their choice. They gave me the ultimate freedom to pick what I wanted to go to school for and find my passion on my own. I was taught that at the end of the day, I have to live with my choices, so I should pick the career I want. So since I never had that pressure from my parents, thinking of all the “what if’s” I could be when I grew up was forever changing. I definitely have the dreamer mentality.

Sometimes though, I will admit, I feel like my dreamer mentality can be a little naïve and too hopeful. But I feel like those feelings are present because I don’t know the end result yet – will I achieve what I want to do as a writer, or am I all talk? The post-grad blues hit me really hard in 2019 because I had no idea what route I wanted to take after graduation. I knew I wanted to write, but all the places I applied to just didn’t spark passion in me. I felt like I was settling. And getting rejection email after rejection email for jobs I wasn’t even crazy about was even more depressing. I felt so lost and confused, but 2020 really showed me what path I should take. I wasn’t ready to retire my passion projects and write under a company. And even though it didn’t make sense to others, my decision made sense to me. In the midst of a pandemic, I set my mind to a writing plan. And I refuse to give up on it. At this point in my life where I don’t have a family of my own, and I have the time to put myself and my dreams first, I’m going to do it.

One thing I will say – I’m for sure a procrastinator, but this is a writing promise I made to myself that I intend on keeping. The thing that I’ve noticed about myself and my habits is that I suffer from really motivated highs, to lazy uninspired lows. Because of this, I can lag on passion projects and the things I have in mind. Given that information, I don’t want to put pressure on myself to produce because it will take the fun, enjoyment, and therapeutic aspect away from writing. Instead, I have been more forgiving with myself, knowing that I have set goals, but keeping in mind that I will have better weeks than others. Keeping consistent motivation without getting burnt out is still something that I struggle with. But I’ve come to terms that my writing dream to be a published author is something that I am only doing entirely for myself. I’ve always said that in my lifetime, I will write a book and be published, and I know that is something I have to do for myself. That is my biggest life goal right now. Not even saying that I have to be a successful or well-known author, which would be nice, but my goal is to just produce from the heart. I don’t care if I sell 5 copies, I just want to prove to my damn self that I put my mind to something and did it, that I wasn’t all talk, and I wasn’t too scared to do follow through.

This kind of reminds me of my college days. I was motivated to graduate and get my degree, but I also took my time. I was still a full-time student, but I refused to take 5-6 classes at a 4 year college just to finish faster. I had my eyes on the prize, and knew I would get there, but did it on my time. Not lagging, but not drowning myself in responsibilities. And I see myself taking that same approach with my writing career. I know the end goal, I want it, I’ll get it, but on my time. I set goals for myself – like posting blog posts every Monday, but I know that if I want to get ahead, I need to start writing more. I’m giving myself time limits, but at the same time know that if I don’t get it done when I want to, it’s okay, because I know I will still make it happen.

The dreamer mentality is a huge reason why I idolize J.Cole so much. Hearing his story through his music, though our journeys and dreams are different, the passion and want is the same. I relate with his journey, especially feeling like you’re in the sidelines trying to get known and make a name for yourself, feeling like you have shit to say that’s worth listening to. I hope I never lose sight of my inner dreamer, and I continue to go for my writing goal for myself. “I’ll never give up,” is so cliché, but I know I’ll never give up on my dream to be a published author.

Stop Asian Hate

It’s infuriating to see new cases of Asian hate crimes trending every day. It’s depressing, exhausting, and makes me feel so defeated as an Asian American. Especially since most of these hate crimes are targeting the elderly, it makes me feel a sense of panic, knowing that my family could very well be in danger just being out in public. It’s a shame to see Asians being targeted in San Francisco, an area that is no stranger to large Asian populations. Seeing new surveillance videos of elderly Asians being attacked in San Francisco, Daly City, Oakland, makes me fear for my community, and the Asian community as a whole. However, more and more violent cases against young Asian women are popping up, and it’s really making people apprehensive. No one is off limits, and it is really hitting way too close to home.

Just this week alone, the Asian community has endured so much fear, pain, and loss. Especially seeing the mass shooting that took place on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Atlanta that left 8 people dead – 6 of them being Asian. The murderer claims that he targeted these spas because he’s a sex addict and wanted to take out these places he believed were temptations. Sexual frustration is no excuse to go around killing innocent people, and the public finds it hard to believe that this was not a targeted hate crime. If you go into Asian spas, you will expect to find Asian workers. According to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ a hate crime is defined as:

“Hate crime” means a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:

(1) Disability.

(2) Gender.

(3) Nationality.

(4) Race or ethnicity.

(5) Religion.

(6) Sexual orientation.

(7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

The public is outraged that this crime is still being investigated, and isn’t publically and officially declared as a hate crime yet. 6 of the 8 victims were Asian women. The murderer targeted Asian spas, and it didn’t take the public long to put 2 and 2 together to see that this man was targeting Asian workers. I refuse to use the killer’s name and give him more public attention than he is already getting. In these kinds of tragedies, the killer usually gets more recognition than the victims and the deceased. The murderer’s name is plastered in every news story, on TV, and is being talked about constantly. It seems as though the killers get more attention and coverage than the lives they are responsible for taking away. He wrongfully took the lives of:

Suncha Kim, 69

Hyun Jung Grant, 51

Soon Chung Park, 74

Yong Ae Yue, 63

Xiaojie Tan, 49

Daoyou Feng, 44

 Delaina Yaun, 33

Paul Andre Michels, 54

And I refuse to make this low-life’s name be known more than the actual victims. The murderer targeted spas because he claimed to be a “sex addict,” proving once again that society’s view on Asian women is hypersexualized. Being labeled “exotic” is fetishsizing Asian women, and is dehumanizing. Fetishsizing Asian women makes people think that Asian women must be submissive, that they can have access to their bodies, and any sexual advances are welcomed. Some bring up that massage parlors do have a reputation of having sex workers. To me, that is a deflection to take away from the bigger issue at hand. Regardless of the reputations that some massage spas have, it doesn’t excuse the actions of the killer.

What added salt to the wounds of the Asian community was when Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Capt. Jay Baker, went on television the next day and stated:

“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”

-Jay Baker

It’s this downplayed narrative that enrages the Asian community. Even something as blatant as a mass shooting – a hate crime that left 8 people dead – the Asian community still has to prove why it’s not excusable, not just someone having a “bad day,” and make a ruckus about law enforcement publicly sympathizing with the killer. The Asian community is pleading with law enforcement to see this for what it is – a hate crime. Being a sex addict, being at the end of your rope, and “having a bad day,” shouldn’t be an excuse that results in targeting certain businesses ran by a certain race of people. Being sexually frustrated should never end in 8 people losing their lives. The Asian community is tired of proving our suffering, tired of trying to get others to see our oppression and mistreatment, and we are tired of people of power downplaying our pain and experiences. The Asian community is outraged, scared, and fed up.

A racist Facebook post of Capt. Jay Baker surfaced after his statement. In this post, Baker was advertising shirts that stated “COVID-19, imported virus from Chy-na,” saying that these products were selling fast. The internet works fast, and when people discovered that Baker had previously posted anti-Asian content, they were not surprised with his statements. Instead of saying the murderer’s actions were horrible and never should’ve happened, it sounded like he was making excuses for the killer and downplaying his actions. A bad day doesn’t result in 8 people dead for no reason. Families and friends shouldn’t be without their loved ones because someone is having a bad day and is sex deprived. Those excuses are not valid nor acceptable. It’s an insult to the families of the deceased and a slap in the face to the Asian community.

With so many attacks caught on camera, and now the mass shooting in Atlanta where Asian workers were targeted, the Asian community is terrified of what’s to come next. Asians are begining to realize that staying silent is not the way. We as a community have been ignored and been labeled insignificant for too long. We’re speaking out, bringing awareness, and banding together. That might be the only bright side that is coming out of all these violent acts of hate. Some are taking this time to learn the history of certain Asian groups and their part in American history. Just because Asian American history isn’t taught in schools, doesn’t mean we didn’t play a significant role.

It’s time to relearn our history, but also time to make history.

Improving Communication

I’ve realized lately that I’ve been more detached and have adopted the “go with the flow” / “I really don’t care” attitude, which is a big improvement since I’m usually an over-thinker that exhausts every scenario and question in my mind. I don’t know if my aloofness is due to pandemic fatigue, getting older, being busy, or just not giving a shit like I used to. What I’m currently working on is realizing that I am not responsible for anyone’s actions and emotions, except my own. Yes, in theory, that seems like a given. But it is something that I’ve struggled more with in the past. I’m learning to set boundaries with people around me, and removing myself from people or situations that don’t make me feel good. Over the past year, this is the area that I have grown and improved in the most. Being aware of how I communicate and how I choose to react has helped me see what I need to improve. It has also helped me see the flaws in others, and not letting their poor communication skills, or how they choose to project their feelings, effect me.

It’s a no brainer that everyone – regardless of who you are- deals with their own inner turmoil and demons. I will be the first to admit that there are still so many aspects of me that need healing, more self-work, and reflection. I know I’m not perfect. Self-work is an emotional journey. It’s a mix of shame, regret, sadness, and hope that there are better days to come. It’s never a straight path journey. It can be a little discouraging when you are doing so well for a period of time, and then something happens where you say something out of anger, or act a certain way that you’ve been trying so hard to avoid. At those times I get frustrated with myself, thinking that my progress that I worked so hard on is suddenly down the drain, and instead of progressing and going forward, I took a couple steps back. I feel emotionally drained knowing that I start back and square one – or at least it feels like it’s back to square one. Being aware of your bad habits and communication style is step one. Trying to unlearn all the bad habits and re-train your brain to react differently is a lifelong journey. I can only control what I choose to do with my life and time. And that also includes how I choose to react, or not react, who I choose to let in my inner circle, and what I will allow and not allow.

2020 was a bit of a shit show. But at the very least, it made me be more aware of how I communicate. When I really put my communication skills under the microscope, I felt ashamed and wanted to take the next steps to be a better communicator. It’s funny because in the professional sense, I am great at communication. I can keep it professional and say what needs to be said without hurting anyone’s feelings. But in my personal life, my communication is not that great. I’m very blunt, and I find it hard to cover up my annoyance, anger, and frustrations – it just results in being snappy and yelling. I’ve always said that I believe I’m a writer because I can’t communicate my emotions verbally without sounding like I’m all over the place. Writing it all out gives me the opportunity to revise my words, being extra careful to get all of my points across, leaving nothing unsaid, but at the same time giving the right tone. Verbally, I’m quick with my words, and I’ve come to realize over the years that my come back game is strong, but it can be very hurtful.

But I also understand that I can only control myself, and not others. Being aware of my own actions and trying to change my ways has forced me to see where others fall short as well. I reflect a lot on who I choose to surround myself with, and how certain relationships – whether that be with friends, acquaintances, family, and other people that I have to deal with day to day – can negatively impact me. Over the years, I have found myself cutting ties, letting friendships naturally drift, and setting boundaries. But it was not always that easy. It has taken years to finally set some boundaries for myself for what I will allow and will not allow into my life.

At this point in my life, I have tried to take more responsibility for how my words and tone can escalate a situation. Sometimes that even results in me staying silent to avoid an even bigger argument. Growing up, verbal fights weren’t over until there was an obvious winner or loser. This usually meant that someone said something so hurtful that the other person was in tears. You “win” the fight, but in the end you’re the loser for stooping so low. So now as an adult, I have to give myself constant reminders that a conversation can be had with disagreements without turning into a fight or argument. I try to apply this when I have a disagreement with my significant other, my sisters, sometimes even my parents. Like the saying goes, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” The importance of communication is undervalued, but I have seen instant improvements when I shift my tone or how I word things.

However, communication is a 2 way street. I can work on myself all I want, but I can’t control how others choose to communicate. How someone treats me is a reflection of themselves, and that is a pill that is hard to swallow. The truth is, not everyone will like you, and not everyone will be in your corner. How people act towards you when you are genuinely trying to better yourself is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I’ve learned to just let it go, cut it off, and remove myself from those type of situations. Everyone has had some relationship, it could be romantic or not, that has been very negative and overbearing. It can be a relationship with your parent, or sibling, or friend, or co-worker, or in-laws, that just drains you. It can be anything from talking behind your back, saying hurtful things on purpose to hurt you, ignoring you on purpose so they make you feel like you owe them something, things that just don’t make you feel good. It may be sad to know that you are not for everyone, but it is also an eye opener to realize that not everyone is for you. You don’t have to have a relationship with people who constantly make you feel bad about yourself.

Everyone is dealing with something, but it comes to a point where it can’t be an excuse for how you treat others. That’s when cutting off, drifting, or setting boundaries comes into play. At this point in my life, I don’t have time to wonder if people are speaking ill of me behind my back, I don’t have time to argue with people who refuse to see my side or even listen, and I definitely don’t have time for people who don’t have the best intentions for me. It’s good to set boundaries with others, but also with yourself. What you will allow, and what you won’t. At the end of the day, you can only control how you communicate with others. And if you don’t like how someone is communicating with you, unfortunately, you can’t force someone to fix something they don’t think is broken. That’s something that they have to want and do for themselves. You can’t force someone to realize that they can be shitty at times. At those instances, it is best to remove yourself from that situation, or break that cycle.

The lesson of communication has taught me that not every person is going to be along for the ride with you forever. There are friendships and people that you just have to leave behind to move forward. It can be pretty sad, but it does bring a lot of peace of mind knowing that you have surrounded and hand picked every person that you chose to be in your life. And dealing with toxic / problem relationships without cutting them off is another story. Sometimes we are put in situations where you can’t really “cut off” the person that is bringing you so much negativity. I have found a middle balance of keeping it professional, but also keeping it moving. My feelings don’t get hurt anymore if someone is being shady because I’ve literally learned to not give a shit. I’ve learned to look past my own hurt and not take it personally. If you’re treating me some type of way, I know that it is something that you are dealing with within yourself. Awkward silence is no longer awkward for me, and letting someone else’s mood affect my mood is only giving them the satisfaction – misery loves company, and I got other shit to deal with.

2020 forced these things to light. “That’s just how I am,” is no longer and excuse or pass. Nobody is perfect, and we are all a work in progress. But, being aware, and attempting to re-learn is what’s important. You can’t control how someone reacts, speaks, or treats you. You can only control how you act, react, speak, and treat others. Understanding this has made it easier for me to weed out who I don’t want in my life. Setting boundaries has made me set a standard for what kind of people and energies I want to be around. I’m aware that I’m not perfect, but being aware and conscious that my communication skills need to be improved. It has brought on a whirlwind of emotions, from shame, anger, embarrassment, and everything in-between. There will be times where the progress feels stagnant, and like you’re fighting an uphill battle. There will be times where you mess up and go back to your old communicating style, but it’s all a part of the lesson. Understanding my emotions, and the root of why I react the way I do, has been a journey on it’s own, “that’s just the way I am,” is something I’ve been trying to take out of my vocabulary.

Asians Experience Racism Too

In the middle of my “LoveYourzStory X My Small Business” series, videos and stories started to trend around the internet – Asian hate crimes. I knew that once my series was complete, this would be a topic I wanted to address right off the bat. I watched the video of 84-year-old, Vicha Ratanapakdee, getting knocked down to the ground by that loser too many times. I sat there, watching the video on loop, feeling sick to my stomach. The more I watched, the more I wanted to break down and start crying. All I could think was: WHY?! Why would anyone do something so horrible to an elderly man that was out minding his business? I tried to put myself in Vicha’s shoes, what those last moments must’ve felt like. Though the video was grainy and low quality, I could only imagine the confusion and fear that raced through his mind as he saw a young adult charge at him.

Sadly, Vicha Ratanapakdee’s story was not the last. It seemed like the elderly Asian hate crimes started to trend one after the other. It got to the point where I couldn’t watch the footage for every new story anymore. It was violence overload. Especially the fact that most of these victims were elderly. It’s upsetting and disgusting to know that there are people out there that will pick on senior citizens that can’t defend themselves. When these assaults are captured on camera, it has its pros and cons. On the bright side, it is evidence. The suspect can be identified, and it is solid proof of the crime. It also brings awareness to the issues at hand when the footage goes viral. It makes people be more aware of their surroundings and what’s going on in their area. However, these viral videos can also trigger the losers out there that feed off of the attention, and try to keep the trend going.

With the help of social media, these hate crimes against elderly Asians were caught on camera and have since went viral. The world scrolled through in horror as these videos were uploaded one after the other. For all the verbal and physical attacks that weren’t caught on video, social media is still being used as a platform to tell the stories of these instances. Though these hate crimes are very unfortunate and upsetting, at the very least, I’m relieved that it is shedding light on some deep rooted issues that need to be brought up. We are living in a time where video evidence is almost necessary, or everyone will doubt the credibility of the victim. And even then, video or photos will sometimes still have people believe that there are two sides to every story. But this isn’t anything new to the Asian community. A lot of the time, Asians have to give proof and keep tabs on racially motivated hate. It is a huge misconception that Asians do not face racism.

Asians experience racism too.

People are surprised and shocked about Asians being targeted in assaults, but sadly, this is nothing new. Especially with COVID-19 and Trump referring to the illness as the “Chinese virus,” there has been a spike in anti-Asian beliefs and crimes since the pandemic started. In the years that Trump was president, we saw this country’s rotting underbelly of racist beliefs burst out at the seams. Some thought these racist beliefs and ideals were of the past, but they quickly realized that that was not the case. Having Trump as president for so many years changed the climate of America. And racists didn’t just come out of nowhere when Trump was president, they have always been there. But suddenly, racists felt bold and empowered, no longer hiding their true feelings of people of color when the “leader” of the country was spewing the same hate. We saw the climax of racial tension in 2020 with the Black Lives Matter Movement rising back up again after the death of George Floyd. People took it to the streets all across the country – even the world – to show solidarity with the black community.

The Black Lives Matter movement brought attention to injustices that black people face from law enforcement and society. This has opened the doors for other minority groups to express their struggles and feelings on the topic of racism as well. Having a melting pot of stories from people of different backgrounds make people feel like they are not alone. And even though 2 people come from 2 different cultures and backgrounds, that doesn’t mean that 1 person experiences oppression and racism while the other doesn’t. All parties can co-exist at the same time without taking away attention from the other group. People from different cultures experience different microaggressions, discrimination, and deal with stereotypes. Having this “but my group of people deal with more than your people,” mentality is where people start to divide and stray away from the bigger picture. And this is where I think Asians get cheated.

The common misconception is that Asians don’t face racism as severely as other people of color. Asians are seen as the “model minority.” thepractice.law.harvard.edu describes model minority by saying:

…The term “model minority” has often been used to refer to a minority group perceived as particularly successful, especially in a manner that contrasts with other minority groups. The term could, by its definition and logic, be applied to any number of groups defined by any number of criteria, but it is perhaps most commonly used to frame discussions of race. In particular, the model minority designation is often applied to Asian Americans, who, as a group, are often praised for apparent success across academic, economic, and cultural domains—successes typically offered in contrast to the perceived achievements of other racial groups.

Growing up in the Bay Area, the model minority myth is very prevalent. I remember being a freshman in high school in my advanced English class. I forget the subject we were talking about, but we were working in small groups, and one of my classmates said something along the lines of, “Well, Latinos are hard workers, doing the field work that no one else would do, unlike Asians who just sit in a cubicle and type in the office.” It’s that kind of mentality that pins other races against each other because one group thinks that they have it worse than the other, and instead of realizing that each group faces different stereotypes and forms of racism, they almost turn it into a competition of, “well my people suffer more than yours, so your suffering doesn’t matter.” And that mentality is dangerous. It dismisses a whole group of people’s experiences and deems it “not worthy” or “less important.”

My classmate was not trying to be hurtful with that statement. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see anything wrong with that statement at all. In fact, those that are not Asian may be thinking – “What is so wrong about being under the umbrella of model minority? Doesn’t that mean that you, as an Asian, have it easier?” That is not the case. Especially when we group people of color into categories like: Asian, Latino, Black, Indigenous people- it causes us to think they we are all just lumped into one group, assuming everyone in that category has the same experiences, and that is not true. In fact, there is even racism within the Asian community. When people think of “Asian,” they think of light-skinned Asians, but there are darker skinned Asians as well. Asians face racism from their own community and from outsiders. Asians are expected to be successful, excel in academics, and be the model minority group, and though that is a “positive” stereotype, it can have negative effects.

Since Asians are seen as the model minority group amongst people of color, that can sometimes have other people of color look at the Asian community with hate. Bullying, making fun of, or making racist comments towards Asians is more acceptable and not seen as a big deal. When the videos of Asian senior citizens were released, I watched in complete horror. But when I scrolled down to the comments, I was so disheartened and angry. A lot of comments were saying that these crimes are nothing compared to what black people face on a daily. It made me so upset because these comments were basically saying, “since my community is suffering, I don’t care if your community suffers.” So many Asians support the Black Lives Matter movement and other marginalized groups, and it’s just so disappointing that some people genuinely refuse to stand with us because their community goes through similar acts of violence. That should be more of a reason to stand in solidarity with the Asian community. And it’s such a shame that there are some people out there that refuse to empathize with the Asian community because of their underlying hate and resentment they have towards the group.

By default, Asians are usually excluded from talks of racism. And even when Asians speak out about the racism they face, it is swept under the rug, doesn’t get much attention, or is dismissed because “other groups have it worse.” Society tells Asians that they should just suck it up, take the abuse, and just be thankful that they don’t have it as bad as others. This puts Asians in an awkward position where we will never be “white enough” but at the same time we are denied by other people of color because we “don’t know / can’t relate” to the magnitude of racism that their particular group faces. We neither fit in nor can relate with others – not even other Asians outside of our nationality since we have totally different experiences as well. For example, what I go through as a Filipino American is completely different from an Indian American, or a Japanese American, even though we fall under the category of “Asian.” The truth is, the Asian experience is disregarded and is seen as less important compared to our allies.

Asians have always been subject to proving that they also face racism. This is nothing new. However, what is new is the media coverage on these assaults and trends – targeting elderly Asians. As horrible as these assaults have been, the first step is recognizing that Asians are being targeted, and all of these cases are not just random. Now you can find articles, news coverage on TV, and specific social media pages dedicated to the rise in Asian hate crimes that have spiked over the last year. It takes a trend like elderly Asian hate crimes to finally make it on your TV screen. However, I truly believe that times are changing. These crimes are bringing the Asian community and other minority groups together, standing in solidarity, instead of ranking who has it worse amongst the races. Over the last year, I have seen a great shift in how people of color are banding together and uniting, having each other’s back and supporting one another, realizing that racism is intersectional, and we shouldn’t focus on denying other people’s reality. One group of people’s reality can co-exist with another group’s reality without being dismissed, downplayed, or compared. You can stand in solidarity with one group without taking away from another. We are fighting the same fight.

I love that celebrities are using their platform to express the injustices that Asians face that go unnoticed. Jeremy Lin has opened up about his disgust with the recent hate crimes towards elderly Asians, and has shared that being a professional ball player doesn’t exclude him from racism either. He has shared that he has been called “Coronavirus,” by other players, but refuses to name drop. He is using his platform to inform and educate his followers.

It’s very upsetting to see all of the videos of elderly Asians being attacked. It’s disgusting to know that there are people out there that will attack senior citizens that are defenseless and don’t stand a chance. It’s scary because a lot of people are already afraid to go out in fear of COVID, but now they have to fear for their safety as well. It’s hitting too close to home – as footage from the Bay Area surfaces. It’s crazy because the Asian population is so big in the Bay Area, it’s shocking to know that even somewhere so Asian diverse could be a hot spot for Asian hate crimes. A lot of people have organized rallies, have digged deeper into the microaggressions Asians face, and have started educating themselves on racism towards Asians. The first step is starting the conversation – we’ve been quiet and passive aggressive for too long.

VanVenture

Wenxi and Pat both crave adventure and traveling. The two young entrepreneurs never saw the typical 9-5 job in their cards and wanted to find other ways of making a living. After all, Wenxi has always been interested in a very minimalistic and free lifestyle. She isn’t one who likes to be weighed down by everyday things like work, bills, and other commitments. Wenxi has a part-time job while Pat is a full-time student. When their schedules sink up and they have the chance, they enjoy traveling, but they also know that nothing lasts forever – eventually the vacation will end and they have to go back to their regular every day lives. Wenxi dreams of waking up in unknown locations with breathtaking views with no schedule to follow and no date of returning home. The vanlife really intrigued the couple because of how minimalistic and easy it is. It gives them the opportunity to travel, be on the go, and have a roof over their heads at night – all on their own time.

“Full-time vanlife is something I am working towards, but it is not something I can afford to do at the moment,” Wenxi explained. “But that didn’t stop me from daydreaming about vanlife and looking for converted van sales anyway. It’s like window-shopping for your dream life online!”

If it weren’t for Wenxi’s late night and early morning window-shopping, her and Pat probably wouldn’t be business owners right now. Wenxi was up all night when she scrolled on a Craigslist listing for VanVenture. The listing stated that the deal would include 2 converted vans and everything the current owners had built up until that point. The original owners of VanVenture were looking to sell the business because it wasn’t growing the way they had planned. They both had full-time jobs and didn’t believe the return they got was high enough for all the time and effort they put into the business. So, they posted up their listing hoping that it would catch someone’s eyes. It did. And it was Wenxi. It was 5 AM, but she didn’t hesitate to wake up Pat to tell him about the listing. They agreed that the offer was definitely a sweet one, and they were considering the idea of possibly following through. Later that day, they brought up the idea to Pat’s family while they were all at a family gathering. Pat’s family supported the idea of them possibly buying a business. But the couple didn’t really give it too much thought because they weren’t taking it too seriously yet. They talked about it more on the drive back home and realized they were out of their league – they needed professional advice.

“We were hesitant because we didn’t know the first thing about owning a business,” Wenxi admitted. “We didn’t know how to look at the books, we didn’t know how to judge the deal, we didn’t know if it was going to be profitable.”

Wenxi and Pat started off by asking their accountant friends for help looking over the books. It was pretty unanimous across the board – everyone told them that it was a bad business move to invest in the vanlife. Their friends explained to them that it just wasn’t worth it, the costs for maintenance were just too high and the return wouldn’t be high enough. Their friends were focused strictly on the facts and previous numbers. And Wenxi didn’t blame them. On paper, the business didn’t seem worth it. Vanlife wasn’t mainstream at the time, and it was 2 months into the pandemic – were they really going to start a business venture during such unprecedented times? Still, Wenxi and Pat saw potential in the business, since they planned to use the vans for personal use if they weren’t booked.

With the overwhelming amount of “no’s” they got from friends who analyzed the books, with time, Wenxi and Pat started to also lean towards no. It seemed that their dreams of the vanlife would have to wait a little bit longer. VanVenture really put Wenxi and Pat on their toes, but they pretty much already came to the realization that it wasn’t going to happen for them. Still, they wanted to see the vans in person anyway. Their peaked curiosity and love for converted vans is what ultimately led them to be business owners. Wenxi and Pat went to see the vans, knowing they weren’t even considering buying anymore. But the moment they stepped into the vans, they knew they had to get it. Wenxi shares that when she hopped in the drivers seat, Pat probably saw her pupils double in size. The look they gave each other confirmed that they were both on the same page, it was a full 180, they wanted VanVenture for keeps.

Wenxi and Pat decided to look past all of the “no’s” and go with their gut feeling. They took into consideration the fact that their friends have never owned a business, had no experience in the RV rental industry, and didn’t see the personal gain from owning VanVenture. The two had to think and act on the deal fast, because someone else was eager to go through with the buying process of the business as well. It was then they knew that they were making the right decision. Their biding competitor was a sign to them that this business deal was a good one, you know the saying, you don’t know how bad you want something until someone else has it! At first, they tried to negotiate the selling price, but their competitor put in a bid for the previous owners’ exact asking price. At that point, they had little wiggle room to negotiate, but at the end of it, Wenxi and Pat became the new co-owners of VanVenture in July 2020.

“We figured we are still young, we can afford to make mistakes, we can recover,” Wenxi said remembering their thought process at the time. “Even if we lose everything and start back at square one, we can. We don’t have a family, mortgage, or other big bills we need to worry about, so we have a lot more freedom to take risks and make mistakes.”

To Wenxi and Pat, VanVenture was more than just their business to make an income. A big deciding factor in buying the business was the fact that they were interested in the vanlife already and wanted a van for themselves. It seemed like a dream come true to have two converted vans that they could use for personal use, while also using them as another stream of income. It seemed foolish to them to pay someone else to rent their van for a few weeks, when they could invest that money into owning their own. So many people told Wenxi and Pat that VanVenture wasn’t a good deal and they would be better off if they started from the ground up to build their own vanlife empire. Their friends recommended this because it would be cheaper than what they paid for the business, and though that was true, Wenxi and Pat disagreed that starting their own business would be a better idea. They saw the value in the existing brand, and took it for what it was.

Wenxi explains that taking over an existing business and learning their techniques on what worked and what didn’t saved her and Pat the headache of trying to figure it out for themselves. VanVenture already had a good reputation on Google Business, rental platforms, Yelp, and other rating sites. On top of that, the previous owners were going to teach Wenxi and Pat everything they needed to know to run the business smoothly – sharing with them what they have learned and tried in the past. By having the previous owners guide them, they would be skipping the trial and error period all together. This is another reason why Wenxi didn’t look too deep into the their books, because the previous owners were only in business for 3 years and feeling out the process. Wenxi and Pat had the opportunity to skip the awkward start up phase and use their new knowledge to build up the business.

Since the couple had a deep yearning to purchase their own van to travel, this made buying the business so much easier. Of course they hoped and planned for the business to be successful, but if it wasn’t, they would personally “win” either way. If the business didn’t work out, they would just use the vans for personal use for their own adventures. Having this win-win mindset made the business venture less stressful and more exciting. They were eager to start their training from the previous owners. Training took place 2 times a week for 4 weeks total. The previous owners showed Wenxi and Pat everything from beginning to end. Some training nights were focused only on cleaning, which is not underrated especially during COVID. Having a step by step training process really helped the couple transition into being the new owners. Wenxi was thankful for this process because it made it so much easier to own a business without any prior experience. To this day, Wenxi and Pat still keep in contact with the previous owners. One of the previous owners even cosigned one of his vehicles with them, a great way for them to expand without investing a lot of money for more vans. Wenxi and Pat appreciate that they have built friendships with the previous owners of VanVenture because they can learn a lot from them.

Being business owners was something completely new to the two. Pat is a full-time student, and has yet to have a 9-5 job. At the moment he is balancing school and their business ventures. Wenxi graduated college a few years back, but has only had part-time or remote job. Luckily, her other job is remote and she controls her own hours. Something that really surprised Wenxi was how “easy” it was to own her own business. Not in the literal sense, since running a business takes a lot of time and hard work, but she was surprised how smoothly it went to take on a business. She always thought that she couldn’t have her own business until she “had x, y, and z” under her belt. Now, she sees that it was just her and Pat making a conscious choice to pursue something they were passionate about. They didn’t have the prior experience, and just like VanVanture, on paper, it seemed like they bit off more than they could chew. But they know now that it’s just a matter of stepping up, gettting out of your comfort zone, and taking that chance.

We started off 2020 in a very different position,” Wenxi shares. I felt stuck, unsure what my next moves were. . . I was unmotivated and worried that I wouldn’t end up following my passion of branding and experience creation. The opportunity reignited a fire for the both of us to continue pushing and chase for what we want. We were honestly on cloud 9 for the whole month that it took to finalize the sale, and it didn’t stop there. There are still moments where we say : Damn, we own a business. Life isn’t bad.”

They knew that they were taking a huge risk by buying a business in the middle of quarantine. However, with Shelter in Place Orders, businesses shutting down, people working from home, and other factors like travel bans, Wenxi and Pat knew that they couldn’t be the only ones itching to get out. Especially with people working remotely, not having to come into a physical location, and working from the comforts of their own home, now “working from home,” could take place ultimately anywhere. Suddenly, the vanlife industry started to gain popularity since people wanted to travel but were more cautious about public places and hotels. COVID really helped VanVenture once Wenxi and Pat took over the business. People were working from home and being cooped up with their families. Suddenly, people had more time with their loved ones and could finally cross things off of their bucket lists. At the same time, parents are burnt out from having their children bored at home and doing online schooling. And with more people booking their vans for trips, Wenxi and Pat make sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize everything in the van once it is returned. They follow the CDC guidelines and clean with a bleach mixture, and switch out all gears and linen after each rental.

“Recreational vehicles are the go-to options for traveling during COVID since you do not have to go from hotel to hotel,” Wenxi shared. “You can avoid coming in contact with others and avoid highly touched surfaces. You’re just in your own pod, touching the same stuff and bringing that stuff with you. . . Travel will always be in style, and now people have their eyes set on a new way to travel.”

When Wenxi and Pat first took over VanVenture, the company’s reputation on platforms were already highly rated. But their reputation on Outdoorsy brought in most of their costumers. The couple started to use Facebook and Instagram ads to bring in business on slower months, and they started to see an increase in clientele. With the help of ads, VanVenture started to receive more and more reservations. Because they knew how the previous owners were advertising the business, it made it easier for them to play around with other options and test out what worked, what didn’t, and what brought in new customers.

Diving into VanVenture actually lead to Wenxi and Pat starting up a second business. SCVLE Management is a “marketing and lead generation company aimed towards connecting van conversion companies to clients who are interested in building their next dream home on wheels.” SCVLE Management came about when the two started to dig deeper into the vanlife community. They quickly realized that there was a big gap between renters, builders, and those who were interested in living a life on wheels full-time. The two vanlife enthusiasts wanted to bridge that gap and give a space for others in their community. They are excited to explore and test out their business ventures together to hopefully bring in other different streams of income. Wenxi and Pat are excited to see where they can take SCVLE Management once it is fully established. They are predicting that SCVLE Management will end up being a bigger company than VanVenture, but their top priority at the moment is their vanlife services. The original plan was for Wenxi to leave her current part-time job, but ever since SCVLE Management was created, she groups her duties under the business, giving her the opportunity to work on branding and marketing. By using the skills that they already know and to merge it with something they are personally interested in makes it that more rewarding. Aside from traveling, Wenxi loves branding and marketing, and thought it would be a great idea to merge her two loves together.

How Wenxi and Pat determine what they offer with their businesses really comes down to putting themselves in their customers shoes. They think it is key to having a successful business and product. Wenxi loves to browse on Outdoorsy and Airbnb, analyzing their listings and seeing what she likes about it, dislikes, and what it makes her feel. Seeing other listings helps her see what she would want as a customer, ultimately tweaking what they offer on VanVenture. After all, seeing the disconnect between everyone in the vanlife community is what led to SCVLE Management – they created what they wanted to see and use as a customer. It’s also a plus that the van enthusiasts were interested in the community already – they know what they would want in a van / rental, and want to offer the best experience to their customers. If the opportunity for VanVenture never came up, Wenxi and Pat still had plans to eventually convert and build a van for personal use. The passion for the vanlife has always been there, and they feel really lucky to be doing business in something they truly love, since not a lot of people can truthfully say that.

They are also thankful that VanVenture and SCVLE Management is not getting in the way of their relationship. Owning a business with your significant other can either make or break a relationship. Wenxi admits that she was a little hesitant to start a business with her partner because she tends to take full control – not worrying about what other people have to say. Luckily, Wenxi and Pat openly communicate and talk through any disagreements they may have about their businesses. Wenxi believes that talking things through together and having both people align their expectations to make sure they are on the same page is crucial to make a business successful, but also maintain a healthy relationship. Plus, co-owning businesses with your significant other has its pros. They enjoy working at any hour of the day or night since they live together, that they can talk business any time one of them has a new idea, and being near if anything business related comes up. Working together has been going so well for the two entrepreneurs that they have yet to have a con at the top of their head. Whatever one person lacks, the other person will step up in.

Another upside about pursuing business ventures with your loved one is knowing that they know you inside and out – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Wenxi says it plain and simple, her and Pat are “just some kids trying to figure it out.” Like many others, they deal with depression, anxiety, ADHD – and Wenxi used to believe that she couldn’t be a successful business owner until she felt she was in control of her mental health. There are times when the bad days outweigh the good, but Wenxi wants people to know that it’s all about getting up each day and pushing extra hard on your good days. She believes everyone – no matter what you’re dealing with – can be a successful business owner. She fell victim to the misconception that all entrepreneurs have their lives together and have everything in their life under control. She knows now that behind every success story is endless stories and hours of personal struggles. The two businesses has definitely given Wenxi more things to be anxious about, but she appreciates Pat for being there and being her crutch if she needs him. As for depression, their businesses has helped them remind themselves that they have a wonderful opportunity in front of them, and VanVenture and SCVLE Management is giving the young entrepreneurs a lot to be happy about nowadays.

Dealing with her depression and anxiety is part of the reason why Wenxi is obsessed with traveling. She loves that it gives her the opportunity to witness different cultures, and see how different people live. She gets so fascinated by how every single person has a totally different experience than the next. She sees her life as “normal,” being a city girl and living the Bay Area lifestyle, and is intrigued by different variations of people her age in another part of the country / area / world. Traveling is Wenxi’s way of escaping every day life and experiencing something new. It keeps her on her toes and puts her on cloud 9. Long drives has always done that for her. It calms her, puts her at ease, and it gives her a chance to stop overthinking. She describes it by saying:

I love the idea of ultimate freedom- To be able to go as you please and not live life for anyone else but yourself and whatever you want to do that day. I honestly love a long drive. Its the only time I get to be at peace with my thoughts. I have so many anxieties throughout the day, always stressing to make the best decision and doing the right things. I feel like I am always multi-tasking and jumping from one thing to another, and I panic because I feel like I am not progressing enough in whatever endeavors. However, when I am driving, I put all those stressors away because for that moment I am just trying to get from point A to point B. I cannot do anything about my problems at that moment, so why stress? What good will that do? The only progress I am trying to make is the distance needed to travel to my next destination, and I am doing that. Plus, I have ADHD which means I am constantly jumping from one thought to another. However, I think the best when I am physically doing something else. Driving gives me something to focus on at the same time I can be in my thoughts and really sort my ideas out. 

Wenxi

The vanlife has helped Wenxi in so many ways, and she encourages others to give it a try. VanVenture is such a unique experience because you have the opportunity to live in a van and be on the go. It literally takes the phrase, “go as you please,” to a whole other meaning. Forget about check in and check out times, booking your flight, also booking a hotel for x amount of days and nights, and worrying about transportation. VanVenture takes care of all those tasks and checks off all the boxes. Wenxi describes the vanlife as the ultimate freedom. The converted van has everything and then some. It’s basically an apartment on wheels, since they have a mini kitchen set up that allows you to cook food. Now, waking up next to the waves on the beach is not too much to ask!

Wenxi and Pat’s goal for 2021 is to add at least two more vans to their collection to use for business. And they are already 50% done with that goal since they recently picked up their 3rd van. They have met with their contractor over Zoom to discuss the build of the van, and they are hoping to have it finished and put together in time for March – when business starts to pick up again. Their 3rd van is a little different from the first 2 – it is bigger, will have an indoor kitchen, an indoor shower, and a booth seat with a 360 view, perfect for people who work from home! They will also be including 2 additional detachable seats so families can rent the van, since their current vans can only hold 2 people. Eventually, Wenxi and Pat want to add a pop-up tent on the top of the vans. Another goal is to offer consignment services under VanVenture, where other people can rent out their vehicles when they are not using them.

The vanlife has definitely gained a lot of attention since the pandemic started. Wexi and Pat had a guy rent out one of the vans for 4 weeks to take a solo trip. The cool thing about VanVenture is that there is no limit to how long you can book a converted van. As long as they are available, it can be rented out for as long as long as you need. The original two vans that came with the business can only seat and fit 2 people. Their third van that is being converted from scratch will be able to seat 4 and sleep 4 guests. And the vehicle that they are obtaining through consignment can seat 5 and sleep 4. VanVenture is expanding their products to try to fit more people so families can start to try out the vanlife too! Customers can use VanVenture’s vans to travel anywhere in the United States, but they prohibit taking the van out of the country or to the Burning Man Festival. Interestingly, the Burning Man ban was a rule left by the previous owners, and Wenxi and Pat intend on upholding that rule.

Their back up plan and safety net made them content knowing that if the business went under, they would still have 2 converted vans for personal use. Now, they are booked pretty regularly, and ironically, have not used the vans very often. Since the vans were being constantly booked during the warmer months, the couple was left with only using the vans when they were not booked, which was during colder times of the year. However, Wenxi is excited for the new van to be completed and predicts that they will be using that van during the next winter season because it will have an indoor shower. The two “kids who are just trying to figure it out” are hopeful for the future. They found a business that aligns with them and their personalities.

The plan is to grow and automate the business so we can build out our dream home on wheels and travel across continents with our dog, Tofu!” She shared.

Going into the business, Wenxi and Pat had no idea whether VanVenture would be successful or not. So many people were telling the couple that buying the company would be a big mistake. They bought the business because they saw the value in the existing company that stood for everything they enjoyed and believed in. The vanlife was their calling even before the business opportunity came about. It was their passion for the company and their willingness to step up to the plate and take a swing basically blindfolded, is what led them to be young entrepreneurs and successful business owners. They walked in as the new owners of VanVenture not even knowing if they could handle the business, run it properly, and make a profit. They want people to know that it’s okay to not know everything about the business side of things going into it. You don’t need to have x, y, and z under your belt to be successful, you just need to give yourself the opportunity to try.

“It is ok to not know anything as long as you are willing to make mistakes and learn,” is what she wants readers to take away from her and Pat’s journey. “Being an entrepreneur is as easy – and as hard – as making a choice, making the choice to do it regardless of your fears.”

 Check out VanVenture‘s avaiability and book your next trip by checking their website: www.vanventure.co