(Internal) Land of the Snakes

“Now who more thorough than me? I paint a picture of my pain for the world to see.” – J.Cole (Land of the Snakes)

I named this post “(Internal) Land of Snakes,” because the quote above is from J.Cole’s Land of the Snakes. And I realized that dark place where insecurities will take you is where all my snakes roam. My insecurities that hurt me, want to poison my mind, and will pop up when I least expect it.

A while back, I shared my weight gain journey and how I found peace within the body positive community. Body image and being confident has always been something I’ve struggled with. And I want to make myself clear: it is still something I struggle with. It took years to unlearn all the toxic ways of thinking when it came to body image, self-love, food, and my body dysmorphia. I am in such a better place, and I’ve learned how to pull myself out of that dark space when I find myself getting insecure. I’ve had to re-train my brain to not think so negatively about my own appearance and body. I try to avoid my internal dark place, my land of Snakes. The snakes being my own thoughts, insecurities, ego.

But of course, the path to self-love is a life long journey. I guess I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I’ll ever find 100% enlightenment where no outside or inside force can break me down. Don’t get me wrong, my growth and outlook on body image has improved tremendously. For the most part, I have the body positive mindset 80% of the time. But I do have my days. Since I’ve dropped that blog post about my weight gain journey and my body positive experience, a lot of people have reached out to me. I’m glad I could share my story and have people relate to it, feel inspired, and heal. I appreciate every single person that has reached out to me since then regarding this topic of self-love.

But like I said, I want to make myself clear: I still struggle. I definitely have my days. What’s different though, is how I maneuver my way out of going down that black hole. It made me happy to know that I was inspiring people to start/continue their journey to body positivity/ body acceptance. People would hit me up saying how brave I am, and how they wish they could be more like me. It was a nice feeling, but it also made me feel some type of way. I didn’t want people to think that I’m body positive all the time, because I’m not. I still get insecure. I still beat myself up over things. I still struggle. I didn’t want to be treated as a role model for being plus sized and proud 100% of the time, as if I’m enlightened and shielded from self body shaming. Because it’s not like that. The point of sharing my life and insecurities with the world is to reach someone – anyone – and know that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to go back and forth with your self-love somedays. So, I’ve decided to share this story…

I met Madison in 2016 at Skyline College when we were partnered up for a class assignment. It was my last semester before transfering to SF State. I was so excited. We were in an advanced journalism class. By “class” I literally mean “group” because there were literally 3 of us, myself and Madison included. We didn’t have enough people to make up an official “class,” so we were the 3 advanced journalism students that did something different from the rest of the class. The 3 M’s, Madison, Marinelle, and Martin. We struggled together, we complained together, we were confused together ( mostly Martin and I, Madison always knew what she was doing.) Anyways, it was through that class that I met a friend for life.

We met in January 2016, and by June 2016 she was moving cross country from the Bay Area to Boston, Massachusetts. This, though, was all part of her plan. She went to Skyline so she could transfer to Boston to get her Master’s in journalism. She regaled me with all of her stories. Moving from state to state, being from Idaho, hating the Bay Area (the disrespect to this Bay Area Native), and everything in between. She was 23 at the time, me just turning 21. “Damn, this girl has lived.” I would think to myself.

We got really close, even though it was all of what, 6 months? But she let me into her and her long-term boyfriend’s lives, and I let them into mine. They would have hangouts at their house and they would throw the best little parties. From charades, to cake, to crying while eating cake, to brunch, to hot cheetos, to someone dancing with fire, to the home owner passing out in the bathroom and possibly being concussed… we’ve had our fair share of awesome memories. So 3-ish years later, towards the second half of 2019, when she told me she was planning to propose to Bren, I was elated.

Madison asked Bren to marry her in September 2019. She let me in on all her details and plans, from how she was going to propose, to all the intricate ideas she had for wedding planning. They planned to have the wedding in January. They had just a little over 3 months to plan every detail of their special wedding day. I seriously don’t know how they did it, but they pulled off one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. Moving along…

Towards the end of September, Madison sent me an Instagram photo. I opened it. They were pictures of her laptop screen. She was on a website for bridesmaid dresses, and all the options were velvet. She sent me pictures of the different styles of velvet maroon dresses.

“How beautiful would you look standing next to me in this color dress?!” Her colorful text said.

And that’s how she asked me to be her bridesmaid. She later asked in a more official way, but she couldn’t contain the secret any longer, especially since she knew it was hard for me to take time off of work. I was so excited, especially since I’ve never been a bridesmaid before. This trip was going to be one for the books – a wedding in Massachusetts during the winter, being a bridesmaid, and it’s a little mini vacation.

At the time, January felt so far away. Madison was letting all her bridesmaids pick our own style dress, color, length, etc. She left it completely up to us, with one request : it has to be velvet. I thought “no problem,” and didn’t really put too much pressure to find a dress. I knew she high-key wanted me in maroon, so I stuck with it. I lagged on getting the dress in hopes I would find something better, or wait for it to go on sale. The pressures of wanting to look good at the wedding were slowly creeping up on me, but I kept my insecurities at bay. That was a whole 3 ish 4 ish months from now, that’s future Marinelle’s problem.

I had my eyes on 2 dresses. I couldn’t seem to pick one. So, I waited. I was stalking these dresses religiously for weeks. Black Friday was just around the corner, so I figured I’d wait and get a good deal. So that’s exactly what I did.

“If they’re ridiculously on sale, I might even buy both to see how they both fit, ” I thought to myself.

Alas, Black Friday was upon us. I rushed to the website on my phone ASAP. My first choice dress – missing from the website completely. “No waaaayyyy, whatever,” at this point my heart is racing. I moved on to dress option #2. Large and X-Large, out of stock. I’m in panic mode. This whole time I thought finding a maroon velvet dress was a piece of cake, only to find out my options were limited. I waited until Cyber Monday. Nothing. Never restocked the second choice dress, and the first dress never came back. I panicked and bought a dress from Macy’s almost twice the price. I was running out of time, it was almost December. Having 1 velvet dress is better than no velvet dress, even if I wasn’t inlove with it. But, I would still be on the lookout for those 2 dresses.

Something in my gut (literally) was telling me this expensive dress was not going to be it. I dreaded getting it in the mail because I knew it was just going to make me feel like shit about my body. It finally arrived, and I eagerly put it on to prove myself right. Yooooo. This. Was. Not. It. My thighs were way too thick for the slit that went down the middle of the dress. To me, I looked foolish. This dress was not helping me in any way, didn’t flatter my body, hugged my gut to the point you could see my belly button, and barely zipped up. There was no saving this dress. It was a no for me, dawg.

If I wasn’t panicking before, I sure as hell was now. It was probably a week or 2 into December already, and I had nothing. As if the universe heard me, my second dress choice restocked in my size. Without thinking twice, I bought it. This had to be the one. I literally had no other choice. If I didn’t like this dress, I would be cutting it close ordering another right after. The dress arrived in the mail on Christmas Eve, right before my family and I were about to leave the house for our family gathering at my aunt’s. But I was too curious, I ripped the packaging open and held it out in front of me arm length. I held the dress by the straps, the velvet soft between my fingers. I haven’t wore velvet in a minute. It looked stretchy, and it definitely looked more comfortable than the Macy’s dress. I liked that there was no zipper, no buttons, nothing to restrict my breathing. It was stretchy, and made to hug my curves without suffocating me. I was relieved…. for the moment. I didn’t get to try it on because we had to go. I threw it on the livingroom couch, knowing that would be the first thing I tend to when we got back.

We got back home well after midnight. My family throws down for parties, so you already know I was fed when I came back home. We eat until it’s food colma. And then you make a little more room just to gorge yourself again. This is nothing new to Filipinos at parties. So this was probably the worst time to try on a form fitting velvet dress, right after Christmas Eve dinner.

Merry Christmas to me, I looked pregnant as fuck in this dress. Not even kidding, if I had put my hand over my bellybutton and turned to the side and took pictures, it would’ve looked like my maternity shoot. I was so sad. If I were to buy another dress I’d have to expedite it and pay extra, and that wouldn’t even guarantee me liking it. And truth be told, this dress and the one out of stock were my best bets. I had to just deal with it. I was a month out from the wedding.

“Maybe if I try it on tomorrow right when I wake up on an empty stomach, it’ll look better,” I thought.

Yeah, no. Still looked pregnant. I felt pretty bad about myself. I started getting nervous thinking about how I was going to stand up there and have everyone see me as the fat bridesmaid. I thought of how I’d keep my hair down as a distraction from my gut and arms. I felt fat, I felt unhappy, I felt like my appearance would get in the way of me enjoying myself at the wedding.

Had this been a couple years ago, I probably would’ve dwelled on this, and my solution would probably be unhealthy. It would probably consist of a crash diet, restrictions, and hating myself into losing a couple of pounds before the wedding. That was how the old me would’ve reacted. Me now, I knew I had to get over it. Being sad over my appearance wasn’t going to help me. It was either I act, or I do nothing. I decided to act on my insecurities, the healthy way.

I was on winter break at work for 2 weeks, so I hit the gym almost every day. I knew I couldn’t lose my gut in less than a month. It was impossible if I wanted to do it the right way. So instead, I ate healthier, but didn’t restrict myself. If I wanted hot cheetos, I was going to eat hot cheetos. I wasn’t going to rob my taste buds of things I like just for the sake of appearance. I figured if my gut is gonna hang out regardless, I might as well have a fat ass to match. So I squatted and did legs almost every single time I was at the gym.

I don’t know if there was an actual difference the month I was working out consistently, but there was a difference in my mood. I felt better, not only about myself but mentally and physically as well. I was still insecure about how I would look during the wedding, but the insecurities were quieter now. I literally just stopped every negative thought that came to mind mid thought. I realized bashing on myself has no purpose. It won’t fix anything, it won’t make me feel good in the end, it won’t do anything except make me feel like shit, so why entertain it?

Around this time, I found myself being more and more inspired by body positive advocates on social media. Their content spoke louder to me because I was going through it. This little hiccup reminded me of everything I stand for, and why I chose the body positive mindset and approach.

At one point, someone suggested maybe I should wear a girdle. I said this was the body I have and this is the body that Madison will get as a bridesmaid. That comment would’ve offended me once upon a time, but instead, it slapped some sense into me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t knock anyone who wears girdles. Do you. Its just not my cup of tea. To me personally, if I’m promoting self-love and being real, I feel like a hypocrite wearing something that will alter my appearance.

I really had to give myself a pep-talk at one point and remind myself that beauty doesn’t define me. The size of my gut doesn’t matter. My arms will jiggle and that’s okay. But I refused to suck in my gut in pictures, I refused hide behind the bouquet of flowers all night, and I refused to keep my jacket on throughout the whole event because I was insecure about my body. Especially living in the Bay Area, I’m covered up pretty much 95% of the year, so when it’s time to wear dressy things and clothes that accentuates my body, I do feel insecure.

Weddings make everyone a little appearance crazy, even when it’s not even your wedding! We all want to look good, and wear things that flatter our body types. You can dress your body type as best as you can, but your body is your body. We put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way, and if the expectations are not met, you’re stuck there feeling depressed and ugly. But who benefits from that? Definitely not you. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of that dark hole. Sometimes you need to be your own hype-woman.

Madison asked me what hairstyle I planned on getting since she hired hair and makeup people for the day of the wedding. I asked what she wanted since it was her wedding. At this point I was feeling back to my body posi self. She suggested hair up. If this had been a couple weeks prior, I probably would’ve said hair down no questions asked so I could hide behind it. But I thought an up-do was a great idea. I’ve never had my hair professionally done, and I’m rarely seen with my hair up. It’s about time I bust out of my comfort zone.

The day of the wedding went by smoothly. I did my own makeup because I don’t trust anyone with my eyebrows. But getting my hair done was so cool, I wish I had someone to do my hair every morning. When it was finally time to dress up, I put on my dress and wasn’t worried about my gut, or arms, or anything really. I was just so excited to be there and see one of my best friends marry her best friend. I didn’t hide behind the bouquet, I didn’t suck in my tummy for pictures, I didn’t post a certain way to look slimmer. And it felt so liberating to have no worries. I looked around at all the others in the bridal party and everyone looked stunning. Most of us were all strangers before meeting up in New York for Madison’s bachelorette party. Some we didn’t even meet until the rehearsal dinner. But everyone was genuinely supporting and hyping up one another. We all bonded over being a part of Madison and Bren’s bridal party, and I must say, it felt good to meet all the many friends who were there throughout the married couples lives.

If I had stressed over my insecurities the whole time, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself the way I did. I would just be too concerned with being insecure and nitpicking at myself, when honestly, nobody even really cares. I’m glad I got to pull myself out of my own head right in time for the wedding. Because when the time came, I didn’t care about my stomach, my arms, the pimple on my cheek that has literally been on my face for over a month, I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying myself. And when we let insecurities get in the way of that, you miss out on a lot of life.

I just wanted to share this story because everyone has their moments. The body positive advocate still feels insecure from time to time, and that’s okay. It’s nice to share successes, but it’s also okay to share your setbacks. Madison shared her wedding album with all of us and I found this picture of me getting my hair done. I love how you can see my perfectly imperfect tummy in the picture. I stressed about my “booty-do (when your stomach sticks out more than your booty-do)” for the longest, and here she was making her appearance in this velvet dress. I love this picture. This is the real me, body relaxed, not posed at all, tummy hangin’ out.

“Are You Filipino?”

It was Thursday evening, I just got off work at 5 PM and was waiting on a reply from the group chat with my sisters and cousin. Where were we going to freakin’ eat?! And when I mean “waiting” on their reply, I really mean I was blowing it up because nobody was responding to me. I told them to figure out where we were eating by 5 PM so I could Uber there ASAP to save time. But here I was, 5:05 PM with all the crickets. Anyways, that night, we were going to watch Jo Koy, a Filipino comedian. We followed him throughout his career and that night, we were finally going to see him live at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Finally around 5:15 my cousin texted the destination spot. The show started at 8, so I didn’t want to risk it for the biscuit by being cheap. I called an UberX to get to Mi Lindo as soon as possible. I waited outside on the sidewalk waiting for my Uber. All I could think about was how tired I was. I was thinking of taking a nap during my Uber car ride, but I was hesitant because of all those creepy Uber ride horror stories. My Uber driver turned the corner and in no time was pulled over right in front of me. I got in and did the basic greetings and confirmation on who the ride is for.

After about 3 minutes into the ride I feel myself wanting to doze off. Working at a preschool full-time got me going home at the end of the day pooped. I was thinking of taking that power nap, my eyes struggling to stay open. I usually have my earphones on during my Uber rides alone, but I was too lazy to reach into my back pack and put them on. Which was probably for the best, since this car ride would give me all the feels. There I was, tired, exhausted, not to mention hungry.

“Are you Filipino?” My driver asks me. He was a middle aged Filipino man, I would guess late 50’s barely early 60’s. But he later told me was almost 70.

“Yeah I am,” I responded happily. I had to turn on my customer service voice on. But honestly, I wasn’t really in the mood to have a full on conversation.

“Can you speak Tagalog?” He asked through his thick accent.

“I can understand Tagalog, and I can speak it,” I said. But then I started explaining myself. Yes, I can understand Tagalog completely when it is spoken to me. Yes, I can speak it, but it takes a while for me to translate what I mean and formulate it into a Tagalog sentence.

“Ah, it is because you were born here, ha?”

“Yeah. I was born here. I can speak Tagalog, but you can tell I have an American accent.”

“Oh, that’s okay. You know, as long as you can still understand, that is good.” He told me.

He kept the conversation going. He told me he was almost 70 years old, and has been in America since 2009 or 2011 (if I’m remembering this right.) He currently works 3 jobs total, Uber being his part-time gig. He is a caregiver for his other 2 jobs. He cares for elderly patients in their home, and does over night shifts. I told him I was on the way to see Jo Koy. He knew him as the “bald guy.”

“Wow, you work a lot,” I told him.

“Yes, I work a lot. To be honest, I don’t really sleep, just always work.” He explained further that of course he does sleep, but it is while on the job as a caregiver. When he’s doing his overnight shifts and his patients are asleep, he sleeps in a separate room, while occasionally checking in on his patient throughout the night.

“So when do you find time to do things you like and have fun since you work so much?”

“I don’t,” he laughed. “I like working. I’m old already. I don’t need to go to parties or anything.”

He told me how he enjoys working a lot. Working makes him happy. Sometimes when people talk about working a lot, its ususally negative. Its ususally followed by a “life is hard” speech or “all I do is work and it sucks” speech. He genuinely seemed to be content with his work load.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in America,” he told me. “You know that? If you are a hard worker in America, you can make a lot of money.”

We continued on with the conversation. He asked what part of the Philippines my parents are from, told me about his 2 kids back in the Philippines, how he came to America on a tourist Visa years ago, then had to work to remain tourist-ing. He married here in America, and his wife works at Kaiser. His daughter is graduating college in the Philippines soon and he was going to return back home for her graduation. In about a year or 2, he plans to move back to the Philippines for good.

Throughout our conversation I understood why he asked if I could understand Tagalog. He was struggling to speak English, probably the same way I would be struggling to speak Tagalog. The point was getting across, but it took a while. I thought about telling him to speak to me in Tagalog and I would just answer in English, but I didn’t know if it would come across as rude, or discourage him from speaking English. I tried to compensate by throwing in Tagalog phrases so he could understand more.

He asked about my name, and said how beautiful it was. I laughed and said my name is very Filipino since my name is a combination of my mom and older sister’s name. Filipinos love combining names to make a new name. He eagerly chimed in that both of his children’s names are a combination of his and his wife’s (the one in the Philippines) name.

He was shocked to discover that I’ve never been to the Philippines. He tried to sell the idea of me visiting with my family soon. “Oh you will love it there,” he went on. He spoke about all the Filipino food he cooks, and how his wife is chubby because he’s such a great chef.

I could tell that he just wanted to talk. I got zero percent creepy vibes from him. He never said it, but I felt like I reminded him of his daughter or something. He told me she was 20 or 21, me being 25. I think the fact that I’m Filipino made him feel comfortable. Just hearing about his life made me want to invite him to one of family parties or something. He told me it’s just him and his wife, that they met here, in America. Because of his busy schedule, I commented that he and his wife probably don’t get much alone time. From what he described, it seemed like he goes from job to job to job. The whole time I thought of how lonely that must be.

When I told him I graduated SFSU in Journalism he got happy. “Oh, you know, that’s like on the TV? Like broadcasting? You should apply! Just apply! You have a beautiful voice!” I laughed a little in my head because it’s a running inside joke with my sisters and cousins how deep my voice is. But I accepted the compliment.

He said something to me earlier in our conversation that stuck with me. When we were talking about Tagalog and if I could understand and speak it, he reassured me that it was okay if I had an American accent.

“It’s okay. You were born here, but your blood is Filipino. You might be from here, but your blood is 100% Filipino.”

We finally got to my destination. He pulled up infront of Mi Lindo. I told him that I really enjoyed talking to him, and for him to take care.

“Send my regards to your mom and dad,” he told me while waving.

I got in the restaurant, and my sister and cousin could see me from the window. My little sister commented that I was way too happy getting out of the car, prolonging getting out and saying 1 last thing before finally closing the car door. I told them that I just had such a nice conversation with my Uber driver.

Chase Center was only about 2 miles away from the restaurant we were at, so we were doing great time wise. We parked a couple of blocks away from Chase Center, but the short walk seemed longer. That San Francisco cold hits you differently at night. The kind of cold that makes your back hurt and body tighten up. Anyways, it was well worth it, paying $10 cheaper than the Chase Center parking garage.

Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors. It was a magnificent sight. It’s a beautiful stadium, and the outside of it was just as dope. It was a sea of Filipinos. We joked that we would all see people we knew. And turns out, we all did. All 4 of us.

We got to our seats, and waited for the show to start. The crowd was huge. And it was a sold out show. Finally, after much anticipation, Jo Koy finally entered the stage. He got an automatic standing ovation. I could only imagine how he felt, the stadium is huge, there were so many people. You could tell by his face that he was genuinely like, “damn, I made it.”

What makes Jo Koy’s jokes so much funnier is the fact that we can relate to everything he’s talking about. He’s half Filipino half white, raised by a Filipino mother. He may not be full Filipino, but his experiences growing up are exactly like mine. Feeling like you can relate to someone is such a great feeling. Especially since he’s made a name for himself, he’s telling the Filipino narrative.

I’ve watched Jo Koy since he was on the Chelsea Lately show. Honestly, I would get a little bummed when Jokoy wasn’t in an episode. They would cap on him for being Asian, and the running joke was that they never got the right type of Asian. He would always talk about him being Filipino, and growing up I got a sense of pride from that. Nothing more rewarding than seeing your people on the screen, and it’s a cherry on top when they claim being Filipino publically, and make an effort to rep it.

During Jo Koy’s act, he talked about growing up and not seeing Filipino people on the screen. He goes on to talk about representation, and how that shit is important. He tells the story of how his sister stitched on the Filipino flag on his jacket right before an interview. Why?

To represent all the Filipinos out there, but to also inspire other Filipinos to dream big. He went on to talk about Manny Pacquiao, and how he was killing the game in the name of the Philippines. And how proud he was to see Manny on the screen. And I can relate to that so hard.

I remember when Manny was first coming up, before he was the main event, before all the fame. We were in my aunt’s living room, and he was an under card fight. When Manny won, they lifted the Filipino flag behind him. “Oh, he’s Filipino?” I remember my dad saying. And then Pacquiao got bigger and bigger, and made/ is continuing to make history. I felt that shit. The pride and admiration Jo Koy was talking about, I can relate.

Everytime there is a known Filipino doing big things in America, best believe that person will be on “Balitang America” (a Filipino news station that reports on American news that relates to Filipinos). Jo Koy is right, growing up, there wasn’t enough Filipino representation in the media. So when there was a known Filipino, we repped them, claimed them, and supported them regardless.

From Manny Pacquiao, to Jo Koy, to Apl.de.ap, to Rob Schneider, to Bruno Mars, to Shay Mitchell. Once we learned of their Filipino heritage, us as a community support them like super fans. It gives us a sense of pride to see someone that looks like us on the screen.

Jo Koy tells the Filipino narrative through jokes. He sheds light on issues in the Filipino community, like holding grudges and not talking things out. This is a topic I’ve talked about with my cousins and friends! It’s some real shit. And as a comedian, Jo Koy jokes about some of the toxic Filipino traits, and even though he is making people laugh, it sheds light on the issues at hand.

“Stop that shit,” Jo Koy said when talking about holding grudges and going mute, “Talk! Just talk! Communicate!”

Seeing a Filipino like Jo Koy make it big makes me so proud. Having someone that represents your culture, in media that is predominately Caucasian, really does inspire other Filipinos to dream big. It’s an even better feeling when you’ve followed somebody throughout their career, and finally see them reach the top. Jo Koy said he wore that Filipino flag on his jacket to inspire other Filipinos out there, and it makes me proud. Because I have the same mentality. All these Filipinos in different professions, making a name for all of us in those fields is a beautiful thing.

I want to be successful, not just for me, but to represent my people. I come from Daly City, one of the most Filipino dense communities in America. But the fact of the matter is, once I go out of Daly City or the Bay Area, the Filipino community gets smaller and smaller. There are parts in America where people don’t even know what the Philippines is.

If you keep up with my blog, you already know I want to make it big to represent the Filipino community and shed light on Filipino topics with my writing. I can relate to Jo Koy and his need to rep his Filipino-ness hardcore to inspire other Filipinos.

Even everyday people, like my Uber driver, takes pride in talking and relating to another Filipino. When we see someone make it big and rep us, it’s a proud feeling. And I aspire to make my community proud like that in my lifetime.

One day this journalist will be getting interviewed, and they’ll ask me, “Are you Filipino?”

And I’ll respond with a proud, “Fuck yeah I’m Filipino.”

Walang Hiya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 πŸ₯‚

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! πŸ˜‚

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.

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! πŸΈβ˜•

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 β€” 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 πŸ’˜ 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. πŸ„πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

My Weight Gain Journey

Yes, you read that title right.

You always hear and read about people’s weight loss journey, but rarely about someone’s weight gain journey.

This is something I wanted to write about for a while, but never had the guts to do it. Probably in fear of getting negative comments, fear of getting too personal so publically, mixed with not being ready to share my story when I was still in the evolving process (still am, to be honest). But now, I speak my truth. I don’t expect people to understand my journey, and I know there will be a handful of readers that will disagree with me. But I’m not here to please everyone. You don’t have to agree with me.

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it reaches someone who is struggling with the same thing I spent my whole life struggling with. That self-love journey is the most intense thing to struggle with, especially since it’s all from within. It took me years to cleanse my mind of all the toxic Eurocentric beauty standards that I learned throughout my whole life. To unlearn all the negative thoughts people have and associate with my body type was in itself a journey. But most of all, training my brain to not speak and think negative things about myself was hard mentally. This is my story. This is how my weight gain journey saved my life.

I’ve always thought in my head how outsiders who don’t know me at all see my weight gain journey. Because let’s be real, it’s completely obvious. When explaining this blog post to close friends, I said, “You know, to outsiders who haven’t seen me since high school / early community college, they probably see me in person or on social media and think ‘Daaaamnnnn, she got hellllaaaa bigggggg!’ – thinking ‘what a shame,’ ‘damn, she let herself go!’ But if only they knew what I went through back in the day, and how unhealthy and toxic it all was. Gaining weight and “getting helllllla bigggg” is the result of what I like to dramatically label as my enlightenment.

🎢 Let me take y’all back, maaaaaan! As I do soooo wellllll! 🎢 *J.Cole voice*

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight and body dysmorphia. I was always the chubby little girl growing up. I’ve literally been big since birth. My mom takes pride in the fact that I was 8 and something pounds and she pushed my big ass straight out the womb naturally. Honestly, she deserves all the boasting rights, she delivered all 3 of us naturally and won’t let us forget it! So since birth I’ve been labeled as the big baby.

You know how kids go through a chubby phase and grow out of it? Uh, yeah, I just never grew out of it. The words of adults when you’re that young really absorb in your brain quickly. Around age 4-5, you start being more aware of yourself as a person and that’s when insecurities start to form. I’ve studied that when once upon a time I was an Early Childhood Development major, and I see it now working with children ages 1.5 – 5 years old. I was always being told by family that I was big and “to be careful.” It all stems from a good place, but the execution was sooo lame.

At age 6-7 I was writing in my diary how I need to lose weight. It was during the summertime, so I was stuck at home and obviously feeling mad insecure. I remember writing down a list of things I was going to “STOP EATING! NO MORE!” I jotted down all the foods I was going to avoid for my “diet.” Just the thought of it stressed me out (bruh, at 7), not even a couple hours later, I opened up my diary and crossed out my whole list. It’s crazy that diet culture starts that young.

I got the nickname “Good Life” from my uncle. The joke was since I was big, I must be eating good all the time and have the “Good Life.” I turned red with embarrassment as all the family laughed at my new found nickname. “Its ok!” They all urged. They explained that my older cousin was the previous “Good Life,” she grew out of it, so years later, now I’m the new one. I remember trying to laugh about it too. “Join in the joke so they don’t know you’re actually about to cry,” I would think to myself. But everytime I would be called that, it would be like a full-body cringe, I would freeze up, and I could feel my face getting flushed with pure uncomfortableness. I remember always wanting to angry cry, but it took all of me to hold it in because I knew I’d get in trouble for taking it too seriously.

I think that’s why I became the tomboy. I wanted to be tough, act tough, and be Buttercup in every way possible. Shitty weight comments is what made me grow a thick skin. But even though I was a little tough kid and acted like those comments didn’t phase me, somewhere deep deep down on the inside I was a delicate little flower who struggled with body image issues. I checked my weight on our shitty bathroom scale often and wished I saw something lower everytime. This time frame I’m talking about Kindergarten to 4th -ish grade y’all.

And by 4th grade I had already developed and was most definitely bigger than 96% of the boys in my grade! So at this point, I have family in my ear talking about how big I am, but I also had classmates tell me I’m fat, I could break a chair, and overall just feeling shitty about myself. All of a sudden I had boobs, and I was bigger than everyone else, it was just an awkward time.

Hearing shitty comments that young made me decide early on how I’m not going to talk to my child, or any child for that matter. I’m a ruthless individual if I’m feeling catty. I can destroy someone’s selfworth with just a single sentence. It’s truly a blessing and a curse all at once. I’ve been bullied and I’ve been the bully. It’s all a cycle. Hurtful things have been said to me about my outward appearance, and at times I was the one saying hurtful things. We learn and pick up actions and mannerisms from the environment we grow up in. So since I know first hand what it’s like to be 5 to 10 years old, and being teased about my weight, I know now that I will never be that adult in some kid’s life.

Fast forward to middle school, I’m talking 6th-8th grade. That age group alone is a difficult time in your life already – trying to fit in, find your crew, and maneuver through the childish drama and teenage beef. On top of that you think you’re grown and you’re trying to get noticed by your crush and get chose. I’ve always been stuck in the frendzone hahah. I look back now and it’s funny and cringy as fuck, but back then that shit was tragic. I really felt like I was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of my friend group. They were all having their first puppy love romances, and I was always just the bro. It made me think there was something weird about me, that nobody saw me past being a bro. Again, this shit is so cringe and minuscle to me now, but back then I was like damn, what the hell am I gross or something? Little did I know that those feelings in early teenage years are completely normal.

Puberty and all that shit really gets to you. Your hormones are all out of whack, popularity and fitting in seems to be the most important thing in your world, and you’re stuck comparing yourself to others. This is around the same time where Myspace was all that and a bag of chips, and Facebook was right around the corner. Peers were starting to get into makeup and beauty products – on the weekends only – since I attended a Catholic school that prohibited makeup, nailpolish, even ankle socks. HAHAHA.

But the benefit of being in a private school was the fact that I didn’t have to wake up everyday and stress over what to wear. Of course, I didn’t see it as a benefit then, but when I think about it now, it took a lot of pressure off of looking a certain way every day. There was a set uniform. Yeah, they weren’t fashionable or cute, but it didn’t matter what my appearance looked like because everyone had to wear the same thing. There were rare days out of the year where we had “Free Dress” days, meaning we could go to school in our regular clothes. These days were a big deal and an opportunity to show your style. I remember being on Aim (damn, I feel old) chatting with my friends the night before free dress days.

“What are you gonna wear tomorrow?”

“With what shoes?”

“Want to try to match?”

“Well do you have a shirt this color too?”

“Bring your camera so we can take pictures!”

I would also keep a mental note of my scars on my left arm. I almost never wore just a short sleeve shirt because I wanted to cover them. The stares, the questions, the disgusted faces people would make when they ask if they could touch it. I would rarely take off my school sweater, and would only take it off if I was legit sweating so much that it was unbearable. And even then I’d use my sweater to cover up my stomach. All these little steps I would take in the name of insecurities was ridiculous.

But the insecurities only amplified as I got to high school. Freshman year I kind of started thinning out because I had P.E. everyday, something I was not used to at all. Previously in my private school we had P.E. classes once a week, so you can only imagine how shook I was that I had to do this shit Monday to Friday. And when the teacher had to weigh us and shouted our weight out loud so the person writing it down could hear… bruh. As you can guess, I absolutely dreaded swimiming class. Changing infront of my peers? THINK AGAIN, I HUSTLED MY ASS OUT OF THE POOL EVERY DAY TO BE THE FIRST ONE OUT TO SHOWER FIRST AND RESERVE A PRIVATE STALL TO CHANGE IN. YOU THOUGHHHHT πŸ’…πŸ½

But listen, this is where I wanted to start my story, but I felt like I had to give a little backstory of how this instance amplified what I already was struggling with all my life.

My junior year in high school, the guy I was in a relationship with for about a year moved away permanently. We decided to do long distance. Doing long distance at 17 and having it be in another whole ass country – let me tell you, 10/10 would not recommend.

It was such a toxic relationship. We both feared that the other would cheat, so I coped with it by stalking the shit out of Facebook to get my answers when I felt like I was being lied to. He coped with it by verbally abusing me and making my self-esteem so low that I wouldn’t even have the confidence to find someone else. This is part of the reason why I took so long to share this story. I didn’t want to write this in a way that focused on my ex being the bad guy. But more so, how this experience just stacked on top of all the past insecurities I had since a child. This is just 1 layer of the onion.

Anyways, we were “together” for 3-ish years on and off. 2 of those years were long distance without seeing each other physically in person. And in those 2 years of long distance, I truly experienced my lowest moments. It really felt like a test of my sanity sometimes. I was insecure as it is, and on top of that I had a “boyfriend” in another whole ass country that sometimes went M.I.A. for days. My gut feeling was telling me I was getting cheated on. So I would take to social media to try to find evidence. It was exhausting. Knowing you know the truth but can’t find the evidence to back it up. We fought almost everyday, I went to sleep crying daily, and we would break up to make up constantly.

I was stalking all these new found Facebook friends of his, and why it seemed like all of them were hot as hell with perfect bodies. If those were the kind of girls he was around daily, why would he need me? Now I see why he spoke bad about my appearance all the time, look what I’m up against…

“You should be happy a guy like me even gave you a chance.”

“Fat bitch.”

“Who would even want to fuck you?”

“Look at me, now look at you. I could get someone so much hotter.”

“You can’t get someone better than me.”

“Even my aunt said you’re fat.”

“If I was there I’d beat the shit out of you.”

“Some girls in my class saw on FB that we’re in a relationship and they were like, ‘that’s your girlfriend?!’ ”

All the while trying to flip the script and say that I must be cheating and xyz. I never cheated. Stayed faithful the whole way even though I knew it was a toxic, tumultuous, mind fucking mess. He later admitted that he did cheat on me after we broke up, which made me hate myself for not listening to my gut feeling. THAT SHIT BE THE TRUTH, PEOPLE! THAT’S YOUR BODY’S WAY OF SAYIN, YO, SOMETHING REALLY AIN’T RIGHT.

My senior prom was coming up and he had planned to attend. At this point we were almost a year and a half into long distance. I haven’t seen him in so long. I wanted to prove a point that I wasn’t the same fat bitch he had last seen in person 1.5 years prior. Prom was in April, so in January 2013 I started to diet. Also known as: starve myself.

I would eat just a handful of cheerios in milk for breakfast, I’d take a heatable “green giant” frozen pack for lunch. This said “lunch” was 30 or 50 calories (I forget) of frozen broccoli in “cheese.” That shit tasted like water. And for dinner I’d eat at home, but not as much as I would usually eat. And you know what? It started working. I started to slim down – and fast. But pretty often I’d feel depressed and binge out on a big hot cheeto bag. However, my binging didn’t out weigh the times I was hungry.

I boasted about how I’m trying to look good for prom. I took pride in the fact that I was starving myself but seeing results. People told me I looked good, they congratulated me on my weight loss. My confidence went up, even though I knew it was such an unhealthy way of living. But I didn’t care.

For once in my life I wasn’t the fat bitch. For once I could back up my comebacks that “no, you should feel lucky that I’m with you.” I valued what I saw in the mirror. The size on the back of my tags justified my worth. And for once it was “where I wanted to be.” For the first time in my life, I had confidence in myself. And if you would’ve told me what I was doing was unhealthy and wrong, I probably would’ve justified my actions.

And if you were to tell me that I picked up an eating disorder over a guy that was totally undoubtedly cheating on me, I probably would deny it. But that’s what it was. An eating disorder. And my peers and people around me had the same mindset as me- that it wasn’t that big of a deal. I planned to stop once prom was over, but I was getting used to it. Maybe I could continue after as well? Just until I get to “where I want to be.”

And what’s crazy is even at my skinniest, I still nitpicked at different parts of my body. Yes, I was getting smaller, but I wasn’t perfect. To me, there was always something else that could look better. It took my body dysmorphia to a whole new level. The sad reality was that I could lose as much weight as I wanted, but the self-hate I had towards myself would always tell me that I should lose more.

I did this process of starving and barely eating for about 3-ish months. Until I got the news that my ex wouldn’t be coming to my prom. I was so depressed that I started eating everything and anything. “What’s the point of this anymore,” I thought to myself. I was doing this to prove something to a particular person, and since he wasn’t coming anymore, why bother?

Around the same time is when I had to walk the runway for my sister’s first fashion show. It was a week or 2 after prom, so in my head, the weight loss wasn’t completely for nothing. Like I said in my previous post, I was so insecure during the first show because all the other “models” were actually models. They were all thin, fair skin, tall, and nothing like me. Even with my weight loss, I was still probably the biggest “model” there.

After some time, I gained back the weight I had originally lost. I was now in my first semester of community college. Some of my friends were juicing for weeks on end, and losing a lot of weight doing it. I somehow got convinced to try it. I told my ex I was going to try juicing for a week, low key hoping for a, “you’re beautiful the way you are,” type of comment. Bruh, he got so excited and happy and encouraged me to do it.

I lasted what, 2 or 3 days with juicing? Im not gonna lie I really felt like I was dying πŸ’€. I felt so weak and hungry. I lost a couple pounds but that shit came right back once I started eating real food. Let’s just say I was a lost soul. Stuck in a shitty toxic relationship thinking my appearance would somehow ease my pain.

Finally, during my 2nd semester of community college, I finally ended things with my ex. It was such a breath of fresh air. I really felt like I could do anything and everything in life. I found my motivation to do better, by dropping the dead weight that was holding me back. It was 3 years too long. Nobody should have to go through abuse like that. Physical or not, verbal abuse is real and really fucks with your head.

At the time I was pursuing Early Childhood Education, so I got a child care job at a gym. I was so embarrassed when I first started working there because it was the most ironic thing for me to be working at a gym. Of all places. Hahahah. I took advantage of my free membership and would workout a couple times a week. I felt like I low key had to put in an effort since I was so out of place. I wasn’t a trainer, a body builder, shit I wasn’t even a member.

But it was kind’ve a lot of pressure to work at a gym, especially hearing what Male coworkers would say about people walking by the front desk. Honestly disgusting. I thought, shit, if you’re talking all that smack about someone you don’t know, I can only imagine what you say about me when I’m not around. Because I clearly wasn’t a fitness freak, and a lot of my coworkers were. I would get workout sessions from Jazzie for free since she was a trainer. It was off the clock for her, and I bitched every step of the way.

I really feel like I got this ironic job just so my path would cross Christian’s. He was my coworker that turned into my man real quick. It was so different being with a nice guy. It was actually weird to me. I didn’t know how to act. Even though I was single for a year, I felt like I had PTSD from my last relationship. I didn’t feel like I had to hide how I really am with Christian. For instance, I ate around him. This is something that I couldn’t do before. I would act like I was full because I didn’t want my ex to think I was a fatass. With Christian from the get, I’ll eat all mine and pick at his while I’m at it. The real me, cuz ya girl can eat.

As our relationship progressed, I added that happy weight, and birth control pills didn’t help this area either πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ. But I have a guy that loves me regardless how big or small I get. But I still struggled. I struggled a lot. I hated the person I was. I hated how insecure I was. I hated that I was getting fatter and loved to eat. I hated that I was probably 35 lbs heavier since high school. I hated the way I looked, the body I’m in, the way I strived for the perfect hour glass figure. I hated that I was getting stretch marks. I hated that it was so obvious that I gained weight. But most importantly I hated that I hated myself.

At the end of my first semester at SF State I had a low key mental breakdown that lead to my rebirth. Transfering to SF State was lit. I spent 3 years in community college and finally felt like I was making progress with my life transfering to a 4 year university. SF State has a Quickly’s, a PhΓ³, an Indian spot, pizza, ramen, Ike’s, Mexican food…. you get the point – I never went hungry. My first semester I had a weird schedule. Some early morning classes here and there, afternoon classes, even a night class that got out at 10 pm. I had to eat at school because I was basically there all day.

I remember this day vividly. I was waiting for my 7 pm class and had a gap. I got some PhΓ³ from campus and a boba drink, I ate in the cafeteria. It wasn’t too crowded. It was about 6:35 pm, and I finished my PhΓ³, it was dark outside already. I was full as fuck. I sat there looking at my empty bowl of soup and my boba drink that was halfway done. I fucking hated myself. Fuckin’ pig. I felt disgustingly full. I felt so shitty about myself that I wanted to cry. To anyone passing by, I was just sitting, staring blankly at my food. On the inside I was breaking down, on the verge of tears. This wasn’t the first time I felt like this. In fact, I felt this way everytime I ate, especially when it was something I bought.

And while I’m on the verge of completely losing it, I look at the time a realize I got to get to class. I walk out into the darkness, not even caring about my surroundings. I’m passing by people but it’s all a blur. It doesn’t feel like real life, I’m too trapped in my head. I get to class and I’m still bothered. I hate myself. I feel disgusting. I’m so fat. You’ll never be happy with yourself.

Then it hit me. If I were to die at that exact moment, what would I have to show for it? I spent 22 years of my life hating the body I lived in. If I were to die right then and there, could I say I honestly lived? Or was the highlight of my life being forever insecure and unhappy with myself? “No more.” I thought to myself. This will be the body I die in. This will be the body and mind I have to live with everyday. Why waste my time hating it? Right then and there I refused to waste anymore time hating my body. It’s like a switch went off in my brain.

I went on Instagram and unfollowed every Kardashian, every account that would make me feel less than, every account that I compared myself to. I deleted a lot of famous people that edit their photos. “No more,” with every unfollow. It was empowering. I then started looking up body positive accounts.

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

All the while my professor is talking about diversity in journalism.

There was no stopping me. At the end of it all I felt my whole body was tingling. The best high – the road to self-love.

I started educating myself with the body positive community. I realized that I resonated with a lot of them. Their struggles were like mine. I felt likeI found my community.

Of course I didn’t accept and love my body that easily. It literally took so long to unlearn every negative thing that I have ever told myself. I found solace in the body positive community and feminism. When you realize that beauty industries profit off your insecurities, you really start to look at things differently.

Not too long ago I craved to be beautiful. Nowadays I crave to inspire, to be authentic, to be knowlegeable and smart. I crave to fight for body representation, and representation of people of color with different body types in the fashion industry. I declared Women Gender Studies my minor, and I truly feel like it opened up my mind.

I studied up on feminism and different ways that women are oppressed. It was like a revelation. I was intaking life differently. My existence in itself is a rebellious act. I’m a woman. A woman of color. A plus-sized woman. I felt empowered fighting for women’s rights, it’s like I had a new found passion. I was insecure my whole life because there was never anyone that looked like me on TV, in magazines, in Hollywood.

Today I am probably 50-60 lbs heavier than I was in high school. But I can honestly say that I am overall happy with myself. Of course I have those days where I feel big and gross, but I got to remind myself who I am. I am so much more than my weight. I am so much more than my outward appearance.

All that’s ever geared towards women are beauty products, dietary supplements, clothes, and all these things that focus on the outside. Growing up I thought this shit was normal. But what does that tell women? That they’re only good for their appearance, that it’s all they should care about. And I refuse to feed into toxic beauty standards and ideals.

To most, gaining weight is the worse thing that could happen to a women’s appearance. A couple years back I would agree. But now, I eat what I want, I wear what I want, I do what I want unapologetically. I strive to be healthier by working out, but if I don’t go for a straight month or 2, I’m not beating myself up about it.

Not giving a shit about beauty standards and societal norms has truly brought me peace of mind. I’ve grown so much – literally, spiritually, and mentally. This is my weight gain journey – it brought me to the path of self-love and self-acceptance.

For those of you who remember me 60 lbs lighter and have thought “yo, wtf happened to her?!” The answer is, she grew up, she found herself, she doesn’t give a fuck πŸ₯°πŸ˜˜