“Note To Self”

I look at the picture that is posted above and I feel a little sad. I was in 3rd grade in that picture, and if I could tell 3rd grade me anything, I’d tell her sorry. I’d tell her not to give into what the media has pounded into her brain, the unrealistic expectations that we were all brought up on. I’d tell her that you don’t have to be a certain body type to be beautiful, to embrace the body she was given instead of shaming it. And most importantly I’d tell her she deserves to truly love herself, regardless what society projects.

For all my life I’ve struggled with body image issues. I would look at myself in the mirror and find all the things that I thought was wrong about me. From my stomach, to my arms, to the stretchmarks on my thighs, nothing was off limits. I remember watching the Tyra Banks show in the 4th grade, where she stood in front of her whole studio audience in a bathing suit she was recently shot in, where news outlets bashed her for her “imperfect” body. I remember watching Tyra choke up as she finished her speech, and I too started to get emotional.

“If I had lower self-esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now,” Banks said. “But that’s exactly what is happening to other women all over this country… To all of you that have something nasty to say about me, or other women that are built like me, women that sometimes or all the time look like this, women whose names you know, women whose name you don’t, women who have been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women at work, or girls in school, I have one thing to say to you… KISS MY FAT ASS!”

I was young, but Tyra’s speech hit home. I’ve been insecure all my life. When people talk about weight or appearance, I cringe and hope that the attention isn’t put on me. I have a tough exterior, but the one thing that can bring me to instant (angry) tears, is when someone thinks it is okay to comment about my weight or appearance. That has always rubbed me the wrong way. Growing up I would get : “You gained weight,” “You’re getting bigger,” “You should watch what you eat,” “You would look so good if you were smaller!”… alright, dawg, you don’t think that out of all people I would know if I gained weight? And even if I wasn’t aware, I feel like it is never anyone’s place to casually bring it up.

Reyna Rochin, body builder and personal trainer, felt the pressure of the media and those around her growing up as well. She’s 100% badass, and has a huge heart. She uses her Instagram account to show her workout progress and to also share personal stories. She confessed her insecurities and personal stories on a couple of Instagram posts promoting self-love. Rochin has a ton of tattoos on her upper body and explains why.

“When I was 15, I HATED my upper body,” Rochin said on an Instagram post. “My wide shoulders and back were not what the other popular girls around me had and I was told by several boys that ‘you look like a man from behind.’ My tattoos are there because I love art and the aesthetics of tattoos but if I’m going to be honest, they are also a testament of new found self-love. My arms, shoulders, and chest used to be parts of me I loathed. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it wasn’t until taking lifting seriously did I realize that my broad shoulders could hold a 200 lb front squat no problem, or my strong chest could allow a 150 lb bench press to fly up easily.”

Rafaella Pereira also used working out to deal with her insecurities. She’s a wife, and a mother to a beautiful girl. Her Instagram feed is filled with personal stories of her struggles with body image issues. Growing up, she was told that she was fat, ugly, and dark. And for a big portion of her life, Pereira believed it.

“I would look in the mirror at times and scream, ‘you’re ugly, fat, and you will never be happy,’” said Rafaella Pereira. “I used to blame God for my lack of self-love and lack of motivation to be better.”

But Pereira has used the negativity as fuel to better herself. Her greatest accomplishment, but surely not last, was running a marathon that she would wake up every day at 5 am for. She hopes one day to publicly speak and help others.

As an older woman who is finally trying to come to terms with loving herself, accepting her body, and trying to unlearn all the things that were/ are detrimental to my peace of mind, I see and intake media differently. Up until recently I would look at pictures on Instagram of models, and I would think, “I wish I looked like that…” But ever since Ashley Graham started to break the mold in the model industry, I started looking at media realistically. There are people that edit their photos to try to uphold a “beautiful” image, they airbrush things that they don’t want you to see. But the thing is… IT’S NOT REAL. It’s all a lie. Stretchmarks, cellulite, rolls, IT’S NORMAL. EVERYONE HAS THEM. IT’S REAL.

That’s why I believe all these fashion shows are a joke. For the simple fact that not all body types are being represented. Not everyone is 5’10 or taller, under 110 lbs, with a size 0 waist. And if you are, then cool! I’m not trying to put anyone down for not being like me. However, representation is everything. Young girls and boys are growing up seeing the lack of diversity, and it encourages them to strive to be something they are not. Sometimes not even genetically possible.

Towards the end of 2016 it hit me that I basically spent my whole life hating my body. I look back to the photo above and around that age I had wrote in my diary “I’m gonna go on a diet.” I had an epiphany, and realized instead of being miserable and hating myself, I should love myself and be the person I wish I could look up to growing up. I’ve had too many instances in the fitting room when I just wanted to leave, even cried a couple of times. I’ve always been the bigger girl, and I’ve always tried to compare myself to others. I’ve vowed to try to stay body positive, even though I have my days when I feel the opposite. It’s awesome that there are people like Ashley Graham that promote self-love and accepting your curves and body type, but still also promotes the importance of a healthy lifestyle and working out.  You can be built bigger and still be healthy, but there will always be people and the media telling you that it is not okay. But it is okay. And I wish I could’ve told 3rd grade me that. It’s a long road to unlearning all the horrible things I would think about myself, but it’s so much more worth it than staying in a state of self-loathing and self-hate.

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Not My President 

Today my friend and I attended the Women’s March in Oakland, CA. I thought it was important to go because of all the craziness that surrounded this election. 
While on BART, seeing crowds of people with signs entering the trains warmed my heart. Many brought their children, some that were old enough to walk, and some in strollers. It was a family friendly event and I was happy to be apart of it. 

I’m not one to go ham on anyone when it comes to politics. I’m usually like “believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I want to believe.” BUT, this election made me realize so much that I was SOOO blinded to. 

I’m from the Bay Area, basically a diverse and accepting bubble that I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in. When the results came in on election night I was dumbfounded. “HOW?!?!” Was all I was thinking. It was a slap in the face. Here I am thinking everyone is accepting of each other whether it be race, sex, sexual orientation, etc, yet here I was looking at all these states turn red. 

After I came to the realization that he won, I had to stay off social media for a while. I do it to myself all the time, I end up going on a hash tag that I know is going to lead me to a thread of tweets or photos of those who I disagree with. It gets me worked up and my blood starts to boil as I read through people who support this man that can publicly bash certain groups of people and STILL BE ELECTED PRESIDENT! Then on instagram I would see videos or stories of people fearing for thier safety, and it really made my heart ache. 

Nobody should ever feel like they are not protected or safe. I don’t care who you are, even if you’re my family, I do not understand nor respect that man at all. I refuse to call him my president. 

As a woman of color, I marched for what I believed in. The government has no place to restrict a woman’s right to her own body. If you’re pro-life, good for you. HOWEVER, IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS NOR PLACE TO TRY TO TELL SOMEONE ELSE WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN’T DO REGARDING THIER HEALTH AND BODY. 

If you know me, you know I’m passionate about Planned Parenthood. It provides young adults and families with not only birth control, but check ups, pap smears, STD tests, screenings, and so much more that benefits the community. It gives families and young adults access that they wouldn’t otherwise have. It also gives the gift of CHOICE. The choice to choose when you have children, the choice to make a smarter decision and protect yourself, or the choice to terminate a pregnancy. Nobody should ever have to travel to another state to terminate a pregnancy they don’t want. And that’s what he’s aiming for. 

That is not my president. Someone who belittles women and minorities will never be my president. I marched with pride even though I know that the odds are against me. I’m a colored woman living under a racist and sexist “president.” To those who believe that we’re being sore losers, you are wrong. We just want a president that represents all of his/her people, that gives everyone equal choices, that respects ALL. And he’s clearly not that. 

Seeing all the love and support at the Women’s March gave me hope. I saw people of all races, ages, and orientation marching in peace and unity. It was truly a beautiful experience. 

The Runaway

*This story was originally written and submitted for my Reporting class. I thought to share this story on my blog because Lynn was the first person to freely open up to me about all aspects of her life. As a journalism student, I appreciate people who go out of their way to help someone out, in this case, me. There are people out there that will share their story with you, just keep interviewing :)*

Lynn Chayatanan takes her break at Stonestown Mall to visit old co-workers, and gets ready to drive to her next client’s house, where she will set goals with a child with Autism.

Lynn Chayatanan, 27, works for Class ABA, a company that provides behavioral therapy for children with Autism. She is a behavioral therapist and spends at least two hours each visit with the child, where she tries to get them to complete a goal, such as making eye contact without prompting with a toy or food. Chayatanan believes this is not a job for everyone because of how stressful it can be, but loves how rewarding the job is when she gets a child to say their name for the first time.

“You have these little victories that create a whole human being,” Chayatanan said proudly.

Chayatanan was born and raised in Pleasanton where her parents opened a restaurant, “Lux Thai Cuisine,” six months after she was born. By the age of seven, she worked side by side her parents and older brother at the restaurant. Despite looking like the picture perfect family that works together, there were problems at home, she always seemed to butt heads with her mother, her father was an alcoholic, and she said she also experienced physical abuse.

 

Chayatanan was always into fashion and cosplay, so she would make her own costumes and clothing, she really thought that was going to be what she went to college for. Her parents were always on her case about school because her brother was such a great student. She didn’t take school seriously, her parents feared she wouldn’t succeed.

In high school, Chayatanan’s mother encouraged her to take an AP course. Chayatanan took AP psychology because she thought it would be easy, but in the end fell in love with the subject. It was then she realized that she wanted to go to school for psychology.

In the summer of 2007, Chayatanan ran away from home with just $600 in her bank account. She had enough of the physical abuse that was going on at home, and was fed up with living there. She informed her family that she ran away by calling them on a “pay as you go” phone, and moved in with her boyfriend.

“This may sound cruel, but I had no fear of her not making it,” said her brother, Charlee Chayatanan. “There weren’t any doubts that she could make it.”

She decided to continue her education at Las Positas Community College in Livermore. Chayatanan couch surfed at different friends’ houses because the people she would live with couldn’t “grow up.” She said that they were stuck in the cosplay life and couldn’t take on responsibilities, and this caused her to lose interest in the cosplay scene.

Once Chayatanan was done with community college, she decided to commute to San Francisco State University and moved back in with her mother in Pleasanton. Chayatanan also picked up a barista job at Nordstrom in Stonestown Mall. By this time, her mother kicked her father out of the house, and not long after that, her father died in Thailand, and the family restaurant of 23 years closed down. All these factors made the already rocky relationship between mother and daughter a little harder.

“It was like walking on glass, not even eggshells,” Chayatanan said about moving back in with her mother.

After she graduated from San Francisco State in 2014, Chayatanan continued to work at Nordstrom where she was promised that if she stayed, she would be promoted to manager. She worked harder to get the manager position to the point where she felt overqualified, but it always seemed like she would get passed up for someone else. She thought she hit a dead end until her boss’s girlfriend asked her if she wanted to join the Class ABA Company, since she knew Chayatanan had a degree in psychology.

Now Chayatanan works as a behavioral therapist and has three Autistic children that she meets with every week. She sets up goals at each visit, and feels really accomplished when a child meets those goals.

One of Chayatanan’s greatest accomplishments was when she was at the mall waiting in line for the public restroom with a child she works with. The child looked Chayatanan in the eye and voiced that they had to use the bathroom, and even though they ended up having an accident, Chayatanan was proud that the child verbally communicated, step by step, what was going on.

Even though Chayatanan never expected to go to school for psychology, people that know her aren’t surprised.

“She’s extremely patient and expects a lot from people,” former coworker, Marie Obuhoff said. “She’s able to keep a cool head under pressure.”

It was Chayatanan’s journey that helped her realize what she wanted to do in her life. She remembers the days when she was a runaway and really needed help, and she’s happy that she can extended her help and services to children with Autism. It is bittersweet because she knows that the goal is for her not to be needed anymore once the child fulfills all the requirements.

“I’m basically a tool,” Chayatanan said. “I’ll help anyone who needs my help.”

Back To School- At My Own Pace

It’s getting so close to the first day of school for me at San Francisco State, so I’m starting to overthink everything from the past, the present, and what I want in the future.

If you would’ve told me 3 years ago when it was my first semester at Skyline College, fresh out of high school, that I would be transferring to SF State for Journalism 3 years later, I probably wouldn’t believe you. Back then my goal was to get out of community college in 2 years, and anything beyond 2 years would be embarrassing. Of course it didn’t happen that way. I went to Skyline College with literally no idea of what I wanted to major in. I went in  clueless on what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that I really enjoy being around little babies, so I started taking Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes. The classes were so interesting to me and it was a pleasure being in them. Learning about how children’s minds develop overtime and how different stages in their life and what happens then could impact them drastically was totally up my alley, I loved learning about children. So I got my first job as a baby sitter at a gym….. that’s open to all ages……. from 6 months to 11 years old…… AAAANNNNNNDDDD long story short, Early Childhood Education is no longer my major. Haha, I’m actually really happy that I realized earlier than later. I love my job but it made me realize that I CAN’T do this for a career because it takes a lot of patience, a characteristic I lack. I would hate to have graduated with a degree I loved, then go out and get a job and  realize “this is not for me…”

So I was grateful. I only spent my first year at community college studying child development, so I still had some time to get it together. But I also remember panicking.

“Half of my goal time is over,” I thought to myself, “I have 1 more year to get it together.”

I was back to square one and as clueless as ever. I thought I had it all planned out, and then I was lost again. I watch a lot of TV, and shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) and Forensic Files had me stuck on the idea of being a detective in solving murders or other crimes. After all, I’m basically the Queen at finding information (stalking people on social media). So the start of my second year I took the intro class to Criminal Justice. The class really opened my eyes. The teacher was a retired police officer for the district my high school was in. He was a great teacher and explained concepts really well. I learned so much about the system and our rights. He also made me realize that the system is very black or white. There is no gray area in the criminal justice system, it’s either one way or the other. And that means sometimes justice is not served under certain circumstances under the law. The teacher would give different scenarios on how the law can be flawed, and then again I came to the conclusion, “this is not for me…” I have too much heart and sympathize with people too much, not to mention a weak stomach, this was definitely not the field for me.

Here I was again… UNDECIDED. How can I transfer if it’s necessary to declare a major? I thought back to when I was a kid. Usually people say make a career out of what you loved to do when you were younger. Ever since I was about 5 years old my dream was to fall in love, get married, and have babies. Yeah, no. Love ain’t gon’ pay the bills, and a baby at this age would do the exact opposite to my wallet. I thought harder. My sisters and I were always those kids during summer break to be cooped up in the house on weekdays because both my parents had work. So I would write my own books. Each summer I would start writing different books, but never seemed to finish them. I would think of different story plots and kind of just write until the story didn’t even make sense anymore. But that was me. That’s what I enjoyed to do. Writing stories.

I met up with a counselor and changed my major for the 3rd time to Cinema. After some great thought I decided to switch to Journalism just because I feel like it will give me more opportunities. So finally after 3 years and many major changes later, I’ve finally transferred to San Francisco State University. It took me a while, and I honestly felt stuck for a long time, like the wheels were never gonna start turning for me. But I’m happy I finally got to this point.

My last semester at Skyline I kept saying that I was “so done,” that I’ve lost all motivation to go to school. Not that I was actually going to drop out or anything, but I was so drained and just wanted the semester to be over. But now that summer is almost to an end, I’ve tried to gain my motivation back. And it’s not easy. I’m not gonna sit here and act like I’m so determined and motivated for this fall semester. I’m stressed, scared, and I already know these next 2-3 years are going to be challenging. Yes, 2-3 years, I honestly doubt I’m going to graduate in 2 years because then I would have to take 15 units each semester, and I don’t want to completely drain myself. I’m a firm believer of “treat yo self,” and I need a social life, a job so I can actually have money to do stuff, and I need to trust myself when I know what I can handle and know what is too much.

My older sister is smart without even trying, always basically got straight A’s in everything, my little sister is smart and works for it, and then there’s me. Don’t get me wrong, I transferred from Skyline to SF State with a 3.15 GPA, but that was by me not reading any of the books and “YOLO-ing” almost every final and test. So I barely tried and got A’s and B’s with the occasional C. My point is not to sound cocky, but that I can only imagine how my grades would be if I actually did try, if I put effort in reading the material, and not waiting until 3 am to write my papers. It’s ironic, I’m always on the Dean’s List, but I’m probably the laziest student you will ever meet. I will do all the assignments, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll wait until it’s 1-3 am to write papers that are worth so much of my grade, to the point where I’m basically begging myself for sleep. It’s a habit I’m going to try to stop starting this fall at SFSU. This is my last push, and I wanna go out with a bang.

My little sister is 2 years younger than me, and it seems she already has her school goals on track. She knows what she wants to do and she’s on top of her classes. It made me really bitter to realize that there is a pretty big chance we will graduate the same year. “How embarrassing,” I would think to myself, “I’m 2 years older and I don’t have it together.”

But I realized that I shouldn’t be bitter or low key jealous that she is on track. I’m actually proud that she is, because I was all over the place at her age with school. All that matters to me now is that I get a degree. Time doesn’t really phase me anymore. I was embarrassed that I took 3 years at community college, and was starting to feel down when I realistically realized that 2 years at SFSU would wreck me, but I’m so focused on finishing that I don’t realize how far I’ve come. At the end of it all, as long as I graduate, I’m happy.  I’m going at my own pace and should be proud of the accomplishments that I’ve already made. I don’t care how long it’ll take me, it’ll just make graduation day so much more sweeter.

With that being said, I’m low key ready for the many meltdowns that will be coming my way.

 

“Lost Ones”

Dedicated to my Goddaughter 

Baby Girl,

I still remember the first time I knew of your existence. It was my first semester of college and I was taking the long 1 hour bus ride home. I was talking to this guy from my class when I looked down at my phone to see that your Mommy was calling me. I let it go to voicemail, it had to be a butt dial. Your Mommy is that friend that never calls me, we text 24/7 and she texts back as fast as lightening, it had to be a mistake.

I texted her something along the lines of “what bitch haha.” And then immediately Mommy responded.

“I’m pregnant.” 

Woah.

I knew she suspected she was pregnant, and I knew she had an appointment that day to find out for sure, but I never expected it to actually be true. I locked my phone. I had no idea what to say. You see, me and Mommy are like one person. We react the same, we think the same, we’re just in sync. So I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking of… probably all her options and how screwed she is if she tells your Grandma and Grandpa.

What I want you to know is that Mommy loved you the moment she knew you were growing inside of her. The love she has for you is a love like no other, and I know for a fact you know that already. You probably also know how deep Mommy mourns for you…

For days Mommy felt torn on what to do. I remember thinking that either way, her life would change so radically. I wasn’t prepared for her to make a decision.

It was the hardest decision of her life. She was 18 and felt like she had no options. Mommy and Daddy disagreed and teeter tottered back and forth for days on the decision. It simply came down to Daddy telling Mommy she’d be doing it alone because they’re both not ready and too young.

I know you’re not angry, but Mommy still has doubts. In the beginning there was no reassuring her. She felt helpless, I felt helpless. What do I say to one of my best friends? Someone who was totally against the idea of abortion but almost had no choice because she knew she couldn’t provide the life she felt her daughter deserved? Nothing I could ever say would make her stop hurting.

Mommy hated what she ended up doing. She wasn’t raised to believe in terminating a pregnancy. Like I said before, me and mom share the same mind. We would constantly talk about imaginary scenarios like “what would you do if this and that happened?” She always said if she was to ever get pregnant unexpectedly, she would keep the baby because she could never get an abortion. But this time it was different, it wasn’t a scenario, it was real life.

She was so angry with herself and felt like you were angry too and that had to be the reason why you never came to her in her dreams. I tried telling her that you’re not mad. That you knew the decision wasn’t because you were burdening her, but because she simply wasn’t ready and couldn’t give you everything you deserve.

Though she was angry with herself and her decision, she knew it was the right thing to do at the time. There was a point in time where I was so scared for her. It was about a year since she gave you up to God, but she was still as depressed as the day she did it. I felt like she was in a hole, and the only person that could help her out was herself. But the thing is, Mommy didn’t want to get out. She felt as though she deserved to suffer for the rest of her life for what she had done to you, even though she knew it was the best logical decision. She was lost.

I introduced her to the song “Lost Ones,” by J.Cole. I just so happened to come across that song at the right time.  She listened to “Lost Ones” repeatedly and felt so connected to it. The lyrics were so relevant to her situation.

One morning I texted Mommy and said, “you know… I feel like the baby was a girl…” And she said she had the same gut feeling.

I told her that I had a dream of a baby girl, and a woman was showing me the new born in  a white blanket. In my dream I knew it was you. And I knew you were okay. That gave Mommy a little peace.

I was so  happy when she told me you came to her in a dream, wearing a white dress. And she knew it was you because you had curly hair. You don’t know how happy that made her. I feel like it was then she realized that you weren’t angry with her.

To this day Mommy isn’t 100% healed. I think there will always be a part of her that will always wonder “what if.”

Just a few weeks ago would’ve been your 2nd birthday. I just want you to know that even though only a few knew of your existence, you are and forever will be loved. For those of us that knew of you, we still celebrate you. Every Mother’s Day I’ll greet Mommy because we never forgot about you. You were going to be my first God child, and I still consider you my first.

You have no idea how much we love you. I told Mommy how awesome it is to know  that people she loved that have passed away in this life are with you right now watching you grow. Now she knows you are surrounded by people who loved her, and who also love you.

I know it’s a bittersweet story. Just know that you were never unwanted and will never be forgotten. Mommy has tremendous love for you and you’re always on the back of her mind. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of you. You changed her life. You made her a Mommy.

 

 

 

 

This Is Not Goodbye…

This blog was meant for a class I took at Skyline College, and our final post is to be a “FAREWELL” post to inform our readers that we will not be posting anymore. As the semester winds down, I’m realizing now that I really enjoyed doing this blog. Besides the deadlines for the class, I looked forward to writing on LOVEYOURZSTORY because I’m so interested in other people’s love stories. I was hesitant to write a goodbye post because 1. I hate goodbyes and 2. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to end the blog… after some great thought and my phone breaking less than 1 hour ago for the 2nd time in 2 months (whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!) I’ve decided that this is not goodbye, this is not where it is going to end.

I will remain posting on this blog, for I have grown attached. Over time my writing style may change to more laid back and personal since I will no longer do it for a grade. I might also be posting less frequently, but more when I get inspired.

I hope you the readers have enjoyed the stories I have posted up, because I  really have. And thank you to everyone who let me use their story.

Like I said, this is not goodbye. You’ll see my name again one day… but for now, this blog will do.

 

Helping The Family

Maya and Julian met in middle school. In fact, Maya was Julian’s playful bully. She would make fun of him because he had a thick accent because he had just moved to San Francisco from the Philippines.

They ended up going to the same high school, Lowell High, and kind of stopped talking. Until freshman year at a homecoming dance, Julian attempted to dance with Maya. She felt awkward and to this day still doesn’t know why she felt the need to tell him he couldn’t dance. Embarrassed, Julian avoided her at school from then on- even at the bus stop!

Around junior year in high school the two started to talk again and Maya had asked Julian 1 year in advance to be a rose in her debut. He accepted, and Maya swears that’s when he first started to have a crush on her.

Senior year prom season came around and the first person Maya thought to bring was Julian. She felt comfortable around him since they had a long history together. They’ve been together ever since.

It was not always easy though. They are both Filipino, and had to keep their relationship a secret for a while since some Filipino parents are very strict on dating. But Julian’s dad suffered some complications and Maya drove him to the hospital.

“I first met Tito Dante when he was admitted to the hospital, at the time they all knew me as Julian’s friend, and I drove them late nights to the hospital as well, since Julian couldn’t drive,” Maya said. “Julian always reminds me that he’s appreciative since I was there when it was hard for his family. He also helped me when my dad had a stroke too. We really grew together by helping each other and our families.”

Now both families know that they a re officially  a couple, even though it was never formally said to Julian’s family. It’s sort of a taboo topic that they just don’t bring up but still acknowledge that she is his significant other.
“Both of our families always remind us that finishing college is important,” Maya said. “It’s the Filipino culture lol: no boyfriend/girlfriend until you finish school. But for Julian and I, I feel like we got together for a reason, It’s cliche I know, but seriously I wouldn’t be able to do/ get through the things I did or accomplish the things I did without him. And I know the same thing applies to him.”