Rob The Barber

I recorded and edited this video of Rob 2 years ago. At the time, he was an aspiring barber that was coming up in the hair cutting world. He took an interest in cutting hair when his aunt gifted him some clippers. He went from cutting his own hair, to his coach’s, to asking the homeless if they want a fresh cut, and now, cutting is his main source of income.

A lot has changed since Rob recorded this video with me. The 22-year-old finally declared a major and is finishing up his AA at Skyline. Before applying to SFSU, Rob is planning to take his love of barbering to the next level.

“I’m just about finished at Skyline,” he tells me. “After taking my sweet time chasing (my) AA in psychology. I’m finally at the point where I feel like I have to make the decision about what to do with my future… I have decided to take hopefully half a year off to pursue my barber’s license before applying to SFSU to further my studying in psychology. I hope to eventually work as a professor, counselor, or something that allows me to be a positive influence in my community, similar to barbering.”

Check out his story:

San Francisco to Sweden

This love story started with a swipe in San Francisco. It was October 2016, and little did Alisanne and Karl know that this first date would change the rest of their lives.

Karl and a friend were visiting San Francisco for a week. They came to the Bay to attend a gaming convention, and would move on to visit Mexico City after. It started with a Tinder swipe. Alisanne honestly doesn’t remember coming across Karl’s Tinder profile, and believes that a friend may have been the one swiping on her account. Either way, she’s happy that their paths crossed.

They met up for dinner in Hayes Valley, and Alisanne made sure to bring a friend with her to the date. They really enjoyed each other’s company, and Karl asked if Alisanne would like to meet up during his last few days in San Francisco, since his week here was almost over. They hungout more and ended up really liking each other.

However, Karl was visiting San Francisco from Sweden.

After his week in San Francisco came to an end, Karl and his friend headed over to Mexico City. But Karl and Alisanne still kept in contact, even when he went back home to Sweden. In fact, they communicated almost everyday. The time difference from San Francisco and Sweden is 9 hours, so communication was not always easy.

It was also not easy for Alisanne to tell her parents about her new flame. She considers herself close to her parents, but there’s just some topics that she knew would be difficult to open up about. Her love life was one of them. When she finally opened up to her parents about her long distance relationship, her fears of their disapproval turned out to be true.

“For my parents, they really thought it wouldn’t last,” Alisanne explained when I asked how her parents reacted to her long distance relationship. “They always did the whole ‘oh, why can’t you stay here,’ and, ‘you might find someone else.’ They were upset that my long distance relationship took up most of my time (talking to Karl) and sometimes they would try to get me to stop ‘wasting my time,’ but I told them it was my decision to be in this relationship and they couldn’t really force anything on me.”

Alisanne admits that defending herself against her parents’ opinions sometimes scared her. It took a lot for her to voice her opinions to her parents that at the end of the day, she’s an adult and will be doing what she wants. And that is somewhat against the Filipino culture. Most of the time, Filipino parents don’t view you as an “adult” until you’re moved out, married, and providing for yourself.

After Karl left San Francisco, he and Alisanne continued to get to know each other over the phone. After 2 months of talking, Karl invited Alisanne to visit him in Sweden. At this point, the two had no official title labeled on them. Still, Alisanne accepted the invitation.

This was Alisanne’s first trip out of the country solo. She was nervous and scared, and now that she thinks back to it, she realizes how dangerous it all could have been. But at the moment she was excited to see Karl and his family. When she told her parents that she was going to visit Karl in Sweden, her parents were freaking out. Her dad demanded Karl’s number, Karl’s mother’s number, and Karl’s address. Her dad even talked on the phone with him before she left. She knew that her parents were just worried and was just looking out for her, but she does see how crazy it must’ve been to an outsider – given that she was 21 years old already – an adult. This was just the beginning of the culture shock of being a Filipina from the Bay Area and dating a chill Swedish guy from Katrineholm.

She spent New Year’s with Karl and his family, and Alisanne got to meet his family and friends. While Alisanne’s family was trippin’ out, back in Sweden, Karl’s family welcomed her with open arms!

“Alisanne came to visit me in Sweden the first time only 2 months after I left,” Karl said. “I didn’t have a driver’s license back then so I asked my family to drive me to the airport in Stockholm to pick her up. That’s not a small favor to ask when the airport is a 4 hour drive total from where I live! They said, ‘ok let’s go!’ 4 hours later we had lasagna together with my family before we got back to my place.”

After Alisanne’s first trip to Sweden, the couple made things official and started doing long distance. She visited Karl about 3-4 times throughout their long distance relationship.

It was August 2017 when Alisanne decided that she wanted to apply for a visa to move to Sweden. She was just about to start her last semester at San Francisco State, and knew that it took about 8 months to almost 2 years to get approved for a visa. However, the universe was on her side and she somehow miraculously got her visa in four months!

“Karl and I did talk about who would move and I eventually decided for myself that it might be pretty cool to move to Sweden,” Alisanne said. “I just finished my bachelor’s in business admin & management, had some money saved up from my last job, and had no plans after school. I also thought it might be harder for Karl to move to the U.S. with all the hectic immigration rules and papers.”

When Alisanne first told her family that she was applying for a visa to move to Sweden, they kind of brushed it off. She believes that her parents thought that it would take over a year to get, because she thought the same thing. When they realized how fast the process was going, that’s when it got real. They were all shocked, Alisanne included, when she got approved in 4 months! Her parents started to get sad and worried because they didn’t think it would be so soon. She completed her last semester at SFSU, and moved to Sweden December 2017, a year to the date of her first visit to Sweden.

Her parents were sad, but in the end supported her decision. They reassured her that she could always come back home if things didn’t work out. She left with one suitcase with all her belongings. This thrilled her little sister, since she could take up Alisanne’s closet space. Alisanne was nervous to move to Sweden, but was ready for the change. At that point, some of her extended family members moved away from the Bay Area. She was done with her degree and was dying to move out of the house.

She did have some fears though. All her and Karl ever knew was long distance over the phone. As you can imagine, getting to know your partner and learning each other over the phone is not easy. There were plenty of fights long distance, and Alisanne feared that they would continue those trends in person. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the couple rarely fights now a days. Karl was worried about Alisanne transitioning to the Swedish lifestyle. He feared that she would be homesick and not like her new home.

Alisanne was homesick for a period of time, but with time she adapted to her new surroundings. The cultural differences and way of life amazes her. Sweden is so different from the Bay Area. She was so used to San Francisco’s diversity – the melting pot of different cultures. Now a days, she finds that she is sometimes the only Asian in the coffee shops and stores. However, thankfully nobody has given her a hard time because of her ethnicity. In fact, almost 2 years of living in Sweden, Alisanne has discovered the Filipino community out there! She describes the Swedish culture to be laid back, chill, and very accepting. So different from what she grew up with- in a very traditional Filipino household.

July 2018 Alisanne and Karl learned that they were expecting! Alisanne was very hesitant to tell her parents that she was pregnant. They reacted kind of sadly, and almost a little disappointed. But her dad let her know that they just want what’s best for her, and being a parent is a big deal. This bummed Alisanne out for a short time, but her parents came around and supported her throughout her pregnancy – checking up on her and asking how she is.

Over a year later, and baby Svea has caught the hearts of everyone around her! Her family from San Francisco and Sweden adore her. This past summer, Svea officially became a U.S. citizen. She is officially Swedish American. She has yet to visit San Francisco, but Alisanne and Karl plan to visit once Alisanne renews her visa.

“Svea has brought out loving parts of us that Karl and I have never seen in each other before,” Alisanne shares. It makes me really happy!”

For right now, Alisanne and Karl are holding off on more kids. She would love to give Svea siblings closer in age, but the cost of another child for the couple right now isn’t ideal. Karl is a teacher’s aid for grades K-6, and helps kids who need extra attention. He also helps out at the after school program. It’s convenient because the school is one block away from their apartment! He comes home during his lunch breaks to spend time with Alisanne and the baby, since she’s currently a stay at home mom.

Alisanne has been a stay at home mom since Svea was born. For the past 1.5 years she’s been unemployed in Sweden, but Sweden’s maternity leave is pretty sweet. The parents get maternity leave of more than 400 days split between the two. She plans to start looking for jobs around March.

Alisanne wants to put her degree in business administration to use in Sweden. However, she fears that most jobs in her field will be in Stockholm, which is 4 hours away from where they live. But she knows she needs to get her foot in the door eventually, and is looking at a neighboring city, Norrköping, which is a 20 minute train ride away.

Since Svea has been born, Alisanne’s family is persistent and hoping that they will come back to live in the Bay Area. For the time being, Alisanne is focusing on renewing her visa, since her 2 years is almost up. Once that gets sorted, Alisanne wants to book a trip to San Francisco as soon as possible! As for living back in the Bay, Alisanne and Karl are uncertain about the cost of living back in California. They definitely want to stay in Sweden for about 5 more years, but don’t have any solid living plans after that, they may stay, or they may consider moving back. For now, they are content with their little family in Katrineholm, Sweden.

“Alisanne and I met the first time when my friend and I were on vacation in SF,” Karl explained. “We matched on Tinder and I asked if she would like to show me around the city. I had my first date when we went out to dinner together, I was confident but not expecting much. The whole evening passed and closer to midnight we said goodbye, looking forward to seeing eachother again. I tried to not get my hopes up too much, I’d rather have a happy surprise than get disappointed. One could always dare to dream. We’re all looking for ‘the one’ to share our lives with. Here I am with a family of my own. They are fantastic and I could not wish for anything else in the world. Who would have thought that a match online could lead up to something like that!?”

Fly High

Can you really have it all?

That’s the question I’ve been struggling to answer. This seems to be the topic of discussion with every close friend I have. This is a topic that gives me crippling anxiety and stress, and what’s even worse is the fact that this is all hypothetical.

Growing up in the Bay Area has really been a privilege. The Bay Area is so diverse and progressive, I’m glad that I was brought up in a really accepting area. What was even better was the fact that I pretty much grew up with all my family close by.

My mom has 4 sisters and 2 brothers. The eldest brother passed away long before I was born. That being said, all her siblings stayed relatively close in the San Francisco area, and the ones that didn’t were still less than a 60 minute drive away (without traffic). Nobody strayed too far from the house that started it all for the Cruz side. Everyone knew that house. My friends knew that house. When I went to Epiphany, “Mama’s House,” as it was known to us, was located right across the street. When my cousins and I attended the school, that is where we chilled for a couple hours until our parents picked us up. And every Sunday after the 1 o’clock mass, we would meet up at Mama’s for lunch. Growing up, a majority of us were there for 6 days out of the week.

Every Sunday was a potluck. People bought food, some would make it, either way, there was always food for everyone to eat. It was basically a small party every Sunday. This was our tradition. Every birthday, life event, and celebration took place at Mama’s.

My dad has 4 sisters and 3 brothers. Their youngest sister died during child birth along with my grandma. 2 of my uncles and their families live in Vegas and visit yearly, but the rest of my dad’s siblings have stayed in the Bay Area the whole time since coming from the Philippines. San Francisco is where it all got started for the Cabillos, and they did not venture far from the city that they called “home.”

When my grandma passed away during childbirth, my dad’s eldest sister took charge as the mother figure. My great-grandfather (my grandma’s dad), after serving America in World War II, got all his children and their families to San Francisco. My aunts and uncles started their new life in the Bay Area. Growing up, their family and each other are all they had. Though they went through tragedy losing their mother, they stuck together and looked out for one another to make sure they all were good. The absence of my grandma really made my dad’s side take “family is everything,” to a whole other level. This is the example I was brought up on.

My dad’s extended family is huge. Back in the day, the Tagle family was named the largest Filipino family in the Bay Area. My grandma that passed was the eldest of 10 children, and they each had a number of children themselves. Our family is big. How big? To the point where majority of us only see each other when someone passes away, and even then we really don’t know who came from which OG.

Given my family history, it’s safe to say that I come from a long line of San Francisco Bay Area Faithfuls. For the most part, we have never strayed too far from the nest, and we look to family for support and companionship. All roots come back to here.

This was also true when I was “looking” for colleges to attend. I put “looking” in quotations because…. was I even? Haha. I knew off the bat that I was going to go to community college to save money and figure out what to do with my life. Everyone was worried about acceptance letters, while I knew from the get that community college was the route I was going to take. I saw no shame in that at all. I saved my parents a shit ton of money, and I got to explore my interests with less stress of “figuring it out” on a time clock. SF State was the only college I applied to when transfering. I knew that going away for college wasn’t realistic. I wasn’t going to make my parents go into debt for an education I could get locally.

But let’s be real, I didn’t apply anywhere else because I was too scared to be anywhere else. The seed was planted in my head that I was going to attend college locally anyways. My parents didn’t believe in going away for college. To them, that’s what Americans do, go away for college and live on their own. But for us, Filipinos definately do not leave the nest until married – and even then you’re probably still living at home to raise your family around family. And that’s normal in our culture. I also didn’t really feel a need to move away for college because there was so much going on with my family. Someone was always having a baby, there was always something to celebrate, and I honestly didn’t want to miss out on anything. Especially with my Tatay. Right now he’s 96, to us that’s truly a living legend. He’s only getting older, and for that reason, the Bay is where I’ll stay… for now.

I’ve always considered myself Bay Area Faithful, the Bay till I die, this is home for life. But as I got older and realized how hard it is to grind, save up money, and learned the value of a dollar, it dawned on me: Can I even afford to live here? And this is the sad truth for a lot of us that grew up here. As I got older, the prices to live in the Bay just got higher, and higher, and unfortunately, higher. I realized that I’ll probably never be able to afford a house in the area I grew up in and planned to stay in.

Depending on my mood, this either makes me angry or sad. Angry over the fact that people that weren’t born and raised here are running us out of our own city, and sad that I most likely will need to make a new place “home.” I’m also sad over the fact that over the years, I’ve seen San Francisco evolve. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not the same. It has transformed into something unrecognizable almost. This isn’t the San Francisco I grew up in.

And that’s what feeds into my post-grad blues. Knowing that eventually, I most likely will need to relocate. Looking for jobs will be tough, do I look for jobs in the Bay Area or should I go somewhere I can afford? And how can I when this is the only place I know as home? With all my family, all my friends, everything that is me, is here. I always wanted to raise my children in the same area I grew up in, so we could share similar experiences and start another generation of Forever Faithfuls. But with the line of work I willingly chose, I feel like I’ll be all over the place. A journalist is constantly traveling, going from job to job to make a name for themselves, exposing themselves to new adventures and areas. The irony.

I’ve always pictured myself living close to home, close to my family. How I was raised, I was never under the care of someone that wasn’t related to me. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or what, but definitely in my family, they did not believe in random baby sitters. And that’s the beautiful thing of growing up with your family, your community is strong and your children build strong bonds with their cousins and other relatives.

We were always under the care of my grandparents. And at one point, my Tatay Jack was living with us. And that’s what I wanted to continue with my kids. I wanted to be so close that if anything came up I can pull up to my parents’ house and be like, “Can you watch them real quick I need to XYZ…” Or maybe even live at home and take over the bills and have my parents stay with me and my own little family. But how, if I move away? And that’s what terrifies me, not having my parents and family there to help support me. I was raised to trust nobody, and I feel that will project ten times more when I have kids, I won’t let just anyone watch them. But I don’t want to stay near just so they watch my kids, but more so be there for little and big moments in my kids’ lives. We drive each other crazy, but we were raised to be a close family.

FOMO is what keeps me here. Fear Of Missing Out. All the cousins I grew up with are still in the area. I see them often and we hangout when we have time. More so now that my cousins have kids, they want to do more family bonding outings, and I’m here for all of it, and I love it. When I picture myself moving, I picture myself missing all the little things. All the small get togethers at Tatay’s, every birthday party, football game, and random hangouts, I’ll be missing out on. And it really makes me sad as fuck. Especially since nobody in my family has really “left.”

If they moved from the Bay Area, it was a family decision, and their whole little family moved. I feel like it’s almost frowned upon to leave just to relocated solo. Well, that’s how my parents go about it atleast. For as long as I can remember, they have used the tactic of fear to have us reconsider moving away.

“Oh, you think you can live over there?”

“You think you can come back to the Bay Area once you leave? You won’t be able to afford it.”

“Over there is racist okay? The Bay Area is the best.”

I know they come from a good place, and deep deep down they’re afraid too. Afraid that we’ll go through with it, and all of a sudden we’re not all together anymore. And I know that their wish is for all their kids and their families to be close, just like how we were raised. So, they use fear of the unknown to have us reconsider. I know that they’re just trying to psych us out so we don’t follow through because they love us and want us close, but sometimes I wish they could just be real and accepting about it. Instead of trying to shut it down with the quickness, I wish they would just say that it would be okay if we were to move. Because their opinion and support matter to me.

“You know, when you say we can’t do something, I know you’re just saying it because you’re scared of us leaving,” I told my mom one day on the couch.

She smirked. She knows why they say what they say! 😂

But then there will be moments when she hits me with the, “It’s your life now. You get to choose,” type of rants. And not in a smartass way, but in a genuine, “I know I can’t tell you what to do anymore” way. This is not one of those “bahala ka sa buhay mo” moments. And then that shit makes me sad too! To know that my sisters and I are at the age where we are about to establish our lives. With time, one of us will move out, and all 5 of us living together will be a thing of the past. And it makes me mad depressed. I’m a bright young lady. I know that nothing stays the same and change is inevitable, and sometimes necessary. But why does it make me so sad? I think it’s the fact that I know that I can never get these moments back. Life keeps moving, it waits for no one. And either I go through with my life, and start building my own life, or I’m 45 and at home.

This is a topic that gets me and Christian beefin’. The topic of settling down and moving away. To him, he wants to move away together as soon as possible to get our lives started. He always says if I want a family and a career I need to act now because the longer it takes for us to get established, the longer it takes for us to be independent and build the life we want. And he’s right. But in all honesty, we come from 2 different worlds. I see his points, I know what he’s saying makes sense and is a no brainer. But our upbringings are so different. It’s hard for him to understand the importance of family in Filipino culture and how we don’t stray far from the group. Which he would be okay with, if the Bay Area wasn’t so ridiculously expensive.

From an outsider’s perspective, he doesn’t see what I see in the Bay Area. He just sees the cost of living here and doesn’t think it’s worth it. And honestly, if I was an outsider I’d think the same thing! I’m an insider and I think the cost of living here is a joke. But I grew up here, a part of me refuses to give up the fight and move away. But is it even worth it anymore? To bust my ass and not have much to show for it but a tiny apartment that would buy me a multiple story house somewhere else?

I’m so afraid to leave the Bay Area, how much more California? But this is all I’ve known my whole life, how will I know this is the destination I want to end up in permanently if I never go anywhere else? It’s one of those things where you know what you got to do, but you cant muster up the courage or balls to do it. Sometimes I feel like it’s a decision between living comfortably and alone away from family, or struggling to stay in the same area, and never saving enough money to live the life I want to live.

A little while after my graduation, my mom told me, “Fly high, follow your dreams.” And that made me wonder, how high is high? If I follow my dreams and it leads me far from the family, is the dream still worth it? Should I still follow it? How high am I flying if I limit myself to only San Francisco? How do I know what path to follow?

The running joke of journalists is that we sometimes put ourselves in harm’s way, yet the public hates us/ we don’t get paid well. When I told my dad that the job I’m at now probably pays more than a starting writing job, he asked why I picked this field. 🤣 He then told me to take the test to work a government job like my mom. He explained that it may not be my dream, but atleast if I put in the years, I’ll be set for retirement after with a lot of benefits. I was almost offended that he would suggest that. But I understand that he wants me to play it safe for my future, because it’s a guaranteed set living. My field terrifies him, just like it terrifies me. Either I make it, or I don’t make it and get paid “peanuts.” But I’m willing to take that risk. I’d rather try and fail, then settle and forever wonder. I need to feel this way about moving too haha.

One time at dinner I asked my cousins if I should try to stay in the Bay Area or try to move away. Almost right after I asked the question at the same time they said “Go!”

“I wish I did, and now I’m old.” My cousin had said.

While my other cousin had a completely different view. I was venting to her about my pros and cons and she hit me with the, “Well, which one is more important to you?” Aka, my dreams or family. Damn. That hit hard. And I realized, nobody can have it all. To follow my dreams will cost me. And to stay for my family could likely cost me my dreams. And it’s a tough decision to make.

I did an Instagram poll asking people if living close to family is important, if they want to raise their family where they grew up, if they would move to achieve a dream, etc etc. Majority of people said living close to family is really important, but also said they they would move away to follow their dreams. A little over half of voters said that nobody can have it all. That “having it all” doesn’t exist.

I do agree that having it all is a mindset. But at the end of the day nobody can have it all. You have to rank what you want and what’s more important. But also, everything is circumstantial, and things come in steps. You never get everything you want all at once. You have to work for it. A friend of mind explained it well saying that we will never have it all because we will always want more, with new goals and achievements being set for ourselves.

So this is my little rant of what’s currently stressing me out. I have no solution for it. And honestly sometimes it makes me feel like I’m adopting American ways where self is more important than the group. And I don’t know how to feel!

Just recently I went to New York, and I was in complete awe with the city. It was a place where I could picture myself living. I just know wherever my career takes me, I need to take the chance. And if I end up back in the Bay after being successful, then so be it!

How high is flying high? I guess I have to find out.

Much Needed Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Her Shoes

Christmas 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early months of 2019

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

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

“Oh fuck nah,” I thought to myself.

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

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

I. Think. The. Fuck. Not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

To My Filipina Girls

Filipina girl,

Please just keep doing you.

Don’t let these beauty standards tell you what to do.

Fuck those products that make your skin lighter,

I feel like this is something I need to address as a writer.

You don’t need products or surgery to change what you were given,

I wish you inner peace and accept the features you’ll forever live in.

However, I am not one to judge if you go down the surgery route,

But let’s be real we know what this epidemic is all about.

Society and culture tells you that you have to look a certain way,

These things were molded into our minds so young as if our brains were clay.

You’re confused as to why your family tells you to eat more, but will later throw it in your face,

And now you’re wondering why you stare in the mirror and look at your body like its a fucking disgrace.

You’re looking at the people on TV and can’t help but stare,

You’re stuck wondering if you’d feel better about yourself if you were fair.

Fuck that shit, let me say this once cuz I’m a lil’ fighter,

Those people want you to stay insecure and have you wish that your features were “whiter.”

The running joke is that of a Filipino’s nose,

Well let me tell you this, and this is how the new story goes…

I love my nose, my color, and all my Filipino features,

I’ll never deny my background, preachin’ like I’m a preacher.

There’s nothing more sad than discrimination from your own people,

They think if your “Filipino” don’t look the same as theirs then you are not their equal.

Growing up, I never saw people in shows that look like me,

I would get excited and feel pride when there was a known Filipino on TV.

When they repped Filipinos publically it made me even prouder,

So that’s why I’ll say this message again, this time even louder:

Filipina girl,

You are more than your outer beauty,

Educate, inspire, grow that brain, that’s your fucking duty.

Because when you do that, only then will you know,

They want you to stay insecure so they can sell you things, and damn now it shows!

My mission is to make it for the people that look like me,

I’m Filipina and I’m proud, and that’s the fuckin’ tea! 🐸☕

Imposter Syndrome

“…it’s only natural I explain my plateau, and also what defines my name…” -Nas / J.Cole

These last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling stagnant, uninspired, and I’ve had hardcore writer’s block. I’ve thought about skipping out on blog posts some Mondays and falling off the wagon for a week or 2. But I knew that would only make me feel worse, so I pushed on.

I’m just over 3 months into consistently writing every week, and I’m high key disappointed in myself that I’m running out of gas this quickly. And honestly, running out of things to write about haha. I know that just means I need to reignite my curiosity on topics and really sit down and think on what to write about.

This is just another wave of the post-grad depression blues. Especially since this December will mark my 1 year anniversary of graduating, I’m almost positive that’s why I’m feeling the way I am. Damn. Let me repeat that. One year. And it sucks because the times I feel off like this I think, “One year post-grad, and what do you have to show for it?” And like I said in the past, this was supposed to be my 1 year “break/chillin'” year… the irony. And I annoy myself because I purposely planned on taking off 1 year to just focus on my blog and passion projects, which I have been doing. So why do I feel like this?

I’m projecting “I’m a writer, I’m a writer,” on all my platforms, but sometimes I think, “But are you? You haven’t been published since SFSU’s Xpress Magazine…” and I hate when I doubt myself like that because it puts me in a mood where I overlook everything I’ve already accomplished, and doubt my decisions I’ve made up until this point.

I’m dealing with Imposter Syndrome so bad right now. What is Imposter Syndrome? Gill Corkindale explains:

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters‘ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence

While Karen Schneider describes Imposter Syndrome as:

A lack of self-confidence, anxiety, doubts about your thoughts, abilities, achievements and accomplishments, negative self-talk, feelings of inadequacy, dwelling on past mistakes and not feeling good enough these are all signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome. And these thoughts and feelings plague all people, successful people, men and women of all ages, races, and orientations.

I felt this way when I was preparing for my speech at the Women Gender Studies Conference in Fresno this past April. I was presenting my paper on The Body Positive Community as the new wave of modern day feminism, and I wrote about 11-12 pages on it. But when practicing, I felt like I was going to draw blanks. This is a topic I’ve been so passionate about for a couple of years. I did my research, I had articles to back up my points, and I still felt like, “Ok, but who are you to be presenting this? Are you really that educated on the topic? Or are you just going to go up there and sound stupid like you don’t know what you’re talking about?”

I vented these frustrations to my community college journalism professor, Nancy. The same visit where she told me, “you’re always ahead of one person and always behind someone else,” when it comes to success. I was telling her about the Women Gender Studies Conference and how nervous I was. I even told her how I was lowkey thinking about not going, but the only thing stopping me was the fact that I booked the AirBnb already. She looked at me and said, “You have Imposter Syndrome.”

She explained to me that Imposter Syndrome is normal and that she herself has been in my shoes. She was delivering a speech infront of other professors and colleagues and felt the same way I did. She was questioning herself and her successes, but still pushed on.

And that’s the position I’m in right now. I feel like an imposter, lowkey. I’m a writer. But I haven’t been published in a while, and I’m attaching my credibility to the number of times I’ve been published. And it sucks. And the only person that puts me in this mood is the same person that can get me out of this mood. And that person is me. I’m doing it to myself. And that’s what’s hella annoying.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a lazy motivated person. If that’s even possible…. but clearly it is, because here I am in the flesh. Let me break it down. I have dreams and aspirations, I want to inspire and spread truth to my readers. I know the steps I need to take to achieve my dreams, and I always end up taking those steps, however, it’s always at procrastinated rate. I’m lazy as hell, but I deliver when its crunch time. Its so bizarre. In school, some professors would praise me for my work, little did they know I started it at midnight. I never missed a deadline, but waited until last minute to get it together, and I always got by with pretty good grades. And that’s how I earned my degree. I guess I do my best work under pressure and borderline anxiety attack and mental breakdown. I’m stressed and anxious now, not knowing what steps to take towards my writing career, but at the same time, what do I expect? This is all I’ve ever known. The stress of “Will I make it or not?” The scary part is, this isn’t for a grade, this isn’t for a paper or project that won’t matter anymore once I turn it in. This time it’s my future, my career.

I get into these moods where, for a period of time, I will be so motivated and I take initiative. I grab life by the balls and get shit done. And then, out of nowhere I’ll feel like how I feel now, burnt out, unmotivated, and I want to fall off for a minute. When I’m feeling really low is when I somehow shoot back up and repeat the process of having immaculate motivation and nothing can stop me, until I run out of gas again. I’m still trying to find the balance of having a continuous motivation and drive, without burning myself out. I want to be at a constant level of productivity, not seesawing back and forth from motivated and inspired, to feeling unfulfilled and down in the dumps.

I was on Instagram, and a friend I follow posted on her story a quote. It was something along the lines of, “People speak about their problems and battles only in the past tense,” and the quote goes on to say people only share their struggles when they already are passed it and have a solution. And that stuck with me. And it’s true. I talk a lot about my past stories, and what lessons I realized they taught me. And nothing is wrong with me reflecting on past events and stories because it does take time to reflect and grow from things. But also, I wanted to share what I’m currently going through, in the moment.

I think that’s why I was feeling a little unmotivated to write – because I was covering topics I was interested in, but I wasn’t addressing how I was feeling in the moment. I will say that writing this blog post was waaaaay easier to write. I guess I need to vent and be real with myself. Put it down in writing how I feel. Right now. Not when I’m already over it and decide to share.

Right now, in this moment, I’m confused, I caught another wave of the post-grad blues, and I’m doubting myself and my abilities. I’m feeling like a fraud because I haven’t been published in a while. I’m feeling some type of way because I’ve almost been out of school for a whole year. It’s so hard to rediscover yourself as someone other than a student. I’m still exploring the non-student-Marinelle. And it’s a confusing time and I want to cry, but at the same time I wouldn’t know what I’m crying for. Just feeling lost, confused, and unsuccessful?

Ever since I’ve started writing consistently, a lot of people have reached out to me saying how proud they are of me, how they’re inspired, and how they look forward to my writing. Thank you, thank you 💘 I appreciate every single person – friend or stranger- that has ever reached out to me with kind words. It really means everything. If you read my stuff and get inspired, I’m so glad and happy my work is touching someone in a positive way. And I’m hoping by sharing my struggles in the moment, it’ll help someone who is feeling the same. Because I don’t have a solution yet. And if I want to inspire others and tell real stories, I need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And I will say that writing this all out has been therapeutic haha. I don’t know who I’m writing this post for – y’all or me 🤣. But thanks for reading, just riding yet another post-grad wave. 🏄🏻‍♀️