#PlanB

Ever since my parents’ divorce 24 years ago, I dreamed about creating a happy, nuclear family of my own- one with my husband, four kids and a barn filled with animals. That was always my dream; that was always my plan.

Of course, life never goes the way you plan.

I’ve had several long-term relationships throughout my adult life but nothing lasted. The older I get, the more I feel like I’m not going to find that man I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life with, that one I’m supposed to have a family with. That thought used to bother the hell out of me but over the past year or so, I’m beginning to feel better about it. Nevertheless, I always felt like I was supposed to be a mother and have my family. I am going to be a mother one day.

When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, my doctor recommended me to get a full hysterectomy. If I didn’t, there is a greater chance of the cancer coming back. I’m stubborn and opted not to get that (instead, I got a cone biopsy). I will need to get a hysterectomy sometimes before my 40s so I’m on a timeline to get pregnant.

My new life trajectory is find a better job, save and fix my finances (which aren’t too bad. I’m almost done paying off my student loan and have no credit card debt). Have a baby. Maybe move back to Nevada to be closer to my mom. Perhaps buy a house. And I’m going to do all this alone.

I know there is a great risk raising a child alone, especially mental health and financial wise. I consider myself to be my best 100% self when I’m single- it’s when I’m happiest and feel my emotionally strongest. I have given so much of my time and energy into finding someone in order to fit this perfect daydream I have. But that’s all it is- a dream. And I have new ones to pursue. I’m not completely voiding myself of a relationship- if I meet someone great and things positively progress forwards, then great! But I decided that I’m no longer going to actively pursue romantic relationships. I just don’t want the stress and complications of dating and relationships anymore, especially now that I’m working toward this new goal.

I’m trying my best to consider all my options, as well as keep them open. I talked with some of male friends about them donating their sperm- they would have no legal right to the child and their names wouldn’t appear on any birth records. I know that I don’t have to conceive traditionally (even though I always wanted to experience pregnancy). I also started looking at foster care training programs in Texas- I would love to give a child in need a home and possibly adopt them (like how I was adopted).

I read countless studies of the benefits of raising a child in a two parent household and I don’t want to be that stereotype of a Black single mom but screw that all. I know that I will be a great mom one day and that I have a lot fo love to give a child. I used to think families had to look a certain way. Now, I know better and differently. Family is whatever you make it. I look at the people I call my family- they consist mostly of my best friends from college. I may never get married or find my “soulmate,” but I am determine to create my own family and my own happy ever after.

If things haven’t worked out for you, dear reader, do you have a plan B?

#55Days

The 2020 Presidential Election is 55 days away- are you ready?

First off, are you registered to vote? Find online voter registration for your state (as of today, 40 states allow you to register to vote via internet. If you’re not registered and don’t see your state on this list, you can register through your local DMV).

If you’re not able to vote in person, request a mail-in absentee ballot ASAP. If you are able to vote in person, consider early voting– this is a good way to avoid lines on Election Day.

Before you go out to vote, you can find your polling location. If you need a ride to the polls, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are offering free or discounted trips for voters in need. When you do get to the polls, make sure that you have your ID and any other required identification in order to vote.

Second, poll workers are desperately needed November 3rd.  If you’re like me  and looking for ways to serve your community, sign up to be a poll worker in your city. You will be paid for your training days and for the days you work.

Third, do your research and make the best, informed decision for you, your family and your community. Get a sample ballot. Before you head to the polls, get a sample ballot so you know in advance all the races you’ll be voting on. There are smaller races for local offices and propositions that could have an immediate impact on your life but don’t get as much news coverage. Fill it out in advance and show up at the polls prepared to make your decisions.

This time back in 2016, I was chasing after people in downtown Reno, registering them to vote. My friend, Monique, and I would be out during the drinking crawls with our clipboards in hand (and me with a shot or three in my stomach), getting the word out. This election, I’ve been avoiding others due to the pandemic but I still feel that civic responsibility to encourage others to vote. To put it blunt, our country is a mess right now and voting may be the only way we can make things better. It’s is our responsibility as Americans. When you vote, you are vocalizing what you need, want and believe in. You’re standing up and demanding to be counted. But this system only works if we participate in it. So, are you ready to vote?

#Chadwick

Chadwick Boseman died on August 28th from colon cancer. He was an actor, a philanthropist and beloved around the world. I first saw Chadwick in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” My friend, Ashley, dragged me to the theater to watch the movie. At the time, I wasn’t a fan of the Marvel Cinema Universe but when Chadwick appeared on the screen, I was charmed by his performance. I quickly became a fan. When “Black Panther” came out two years later, I watched the movie three times in theaters. When I heard the news of his passing, it felt like a friend died.

I usually don’t get caught up with celebrity deaths but for the past week, Chadwick has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about his legacy and his incredible work ethic. As a cancer survivor myself, I am impressed that he continued to work despite his illness. It makes me realize two things: 

  1. You have no idea what someone is going through. Chadwick worked during his cancer treatments, making the Marvel films and several others in a four year span. I think about the pandemic and how so many of us are struggling while keeping a brave face on, trying our best to get through the day. Knowing what he went through reminds me to be kind. These days, everyone is fighting some kind of battle. 
  2. I have to admit that when things get hard in my life, I tend to shut down. I push people away. I’ll spend hours crying in my bathroom. I’ll neglect my self-care and spend all of my free time sleeping. I throw myself pity parties and tell myself that I’m worthless and a screw-up. My cancer was caused by HPV. When I was first diagnosed, I repeatedly told myself that I was an idiot for not insisting that my previous partners wear protection: if they wore condoms, if I treated my body and sexual health better, if I loved and respected myself like I should have, I wouldn’t have had cancer. While I don’t know how he dealt with his diagnosis, I admire that Chadwick continued to work. He may have been in pain but he continued to show up and keep fighting. He may have had some break downs but he still put in his best every day. That is inspiring. Seeing that energy fuels me to keep going. Chadwick lived unapologetically, to the best of his capability, to the very end- may we all do so.

In my culture, death is not the end.” – Black Panther/ T’Challa

Rest in power, King

#AllTheTimeInTheWorld

My weekly to-do list is at least a page long and I prioritize things in this order:
1. My day job (because, you know, I have bills to pay)
2. Job hunting (I’m trying to find full-time, 8-to-5 Monday through Friday position in marketing or editorial with health benefits)
3. My boyfriend, Amit
4. My friends (and not just spending time with them but giving them my full, undivided attention)
5. Sleep (I’d like to get a full eight hours per sleep cycle but I usually only get five)
6. Chores (grocery shopping, cleaning my apartment, beauty treatments like my plucking eyebrows which unfortunately take a long time, etc.)
7. My hobbies (running, writing, painting, filmmaking, volunteering, etc.)

Yeah… it’s a lot.

I never feel like I have enough time anymore even now with the constraints of the Coronavirus. At the start of the pandemic, I was excited for all the “free time” I had to get stuff done. But now, as life is returning to “normal,” I’m being pulled in a million directions. My work hours have increased, which I’m grateful for, but I rarely have weekends and nights off. My boyfriend and the majority of my friends work standard business hours so our schedules conflict. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve turned down multiple invitations out. I’m missing the early days of summer where I could just hop on Zoom for an hour or so, catch up and that was that. I didn’t have to incorporate travel time and other random events that popped up.

I only hang out with my boyfriend once a week, usually Sunday evenings when I can sleepover. I’m grateful that Amit is low-key and is fine not seeing each other in person every week. We text each other all the time and keep it old-school with talking on the phone almost every evening. Although we live in opposites sides of Austin, he doesn’t care that I don’t have a car (which does bother me severely- it would make my life so much easier. But I can’t afford one). Amit is happy to pick me up, even if it takes him an hour roundtrip (which it does with Texas traffic).

I’m trying to find my permanent job position (which is another blog post in itself) which takes up a lot of my free time. I know that my life will be better when I am not only making more money (to buy a car) but also have a consistent schedule to plan time for my friendships and hobbies. One of the biggest anxieties of my life right now is trying to get everything done while maintaining a positive mental health. I know that I can’t get everything done nor make everyone happy. But I’m not happy.

I’ve been trying to figure out better time management skills even though I’m not doing a good job with it. I do prioritize. I use my calendar to plan ahead and keep (most ) appointments. I try to set time limits with certain tasks (especially with job hunting. Being on Indeed all day can be soul draining and I need breaks from my computer). Yet, I have daily panic attacks where I don’t feel enough- like I’m doing enough or am a good enough person (employee, girlfriend, renter- ugh, the state of my kitchen, friend, creator, etc.). I feel guilty all the time and it’s a feeling that I can’t shake off.

How do you manage your time, dear reader? How do you get your to-do list completed while keeping your important relationships happy and healthy without giving yourself an anxiety attack?

#TheUmbrellaAcademy

You had a toxic parent, too?

I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix this summer. I was especially pumped up for the newest season of “The Umbrella Academy” and gobbled down all ten episodes in one sitting the Friday it came out. The show is about a group of children who are born with super powers. They’re adopted by this billionaire who exploits the children and forces them to become vigilantes. The children grow up and have complex and complicated relationships with each other and their toxic adoptive father.

I can relate, being adopted by a toxic parent. It’s trauma that I’ve been unpacking for the last several months with the watchful guide of my therapist. My biological mother wasn’t fit to take care of me. She most likely drank while she was pregnant. I never knew my biological father. My adoptive mother didn’t want children but my adoptive father insisted that I stay in our family (my adoptive mother is my biological aunt). More trauma when my parents got divorced. It was really nasty, especially when it came to custody. I went to live with my mom when I was in high school and didn’t see my dad often. At that time, my mom get remarried to an abusive man. I can still remember them fighting. One night, I was watching television in the living room when my mom stormed out her bedroom, with her husband screaming her. She hopped in her car and drove away, leaving me. I ran down the block after her, sobbing. She eventually came back and apologized.

I want to say that I love my parents. I really do adore my family and am grateful for them. I know they did the best they could even though I was troubling. I was a difficult baby. I spent the first two years of my life in foster care before I was legally adopted. My parents don’t know exactly what happened during those two years but I was developmentally delayed in some areas (like sleeping. I shook a lot in my sleep, waking myself every couple hours. I continued to do so throughout my childhood and my teenage years and still occasionally do it now. I never can get a good full night’s rest). I had a speech disorder and refused to talk until I was about five years old (I still lisp every now and then). I couldn’t be alone when I was a toddler. I was mean to animals. Miraculously, though, I did well academically. I loved school. I felt my first sting of depression when I was eight years old. I slept a lot. I couldn’t keep friends. I kept to myself. I was awkward (still am). I lied a lot. I had severe abandonment issues due to my adoption (with my bio mom leaving me) and my parents’ divorce. I went puberty at a young age and was body shamed frequently. I started starving myself in middle school. Binging soon followed. I also begin self-mutilating then and had my first suicide attempt in my preteens. Despite all this, my parents continued to love me and support as best as they could.

I now know that a lot of trauma in my life has been either a direct action or inaction by my parents, biological and adoptive. I wasn’t held enough as an infant so I developed bonding and empathy issues. My body issues were caused by my mother’s shaming, which she received from her own mother. I know that some of my self-esteem issues come from my parents not saying that they believed in me enough. I rarely felt- and still don’t feel- enough in my family which has affected all of my romantic relationships and my professional life.

It’s taken a lot of time to get to the root of my issues and I’m so, so grateful for my therapist (the key to healing is finding the right kind of help!). It’s been a lot work, a lot of tears. I don’t blame my parents for everything wrong with me and my life- I certainly have made a lot of bad choices, choices today that I’m still trying to mend. Even today, I will make the choice of dealing with a toxic parent even though my siblings don’t. My mom can still be pretty narcissistic. But I remember that my mom is human and has been through a lot of trauma herself. I’ve forgiven her and do so every day. I remember to put up boundaries with her- I tell myself, this is my life now and this is the way that I’m living it.

I ask myself if I have children of my own day, will I be a good mother? I know that all parents screw up their kids in a way, some more than others. But still… Will I raise my children to be confident and kind, strong and successful? I like to think so. I hope to take the mistakes that my parents made with raising me and my sisters and give my children not only a happy childhood but a strong sense of self-worth. I want to show my kids that there is actually someone in the world who cares, cares deeply, and can provide for them all of their emotional and physical needs.

Have you grown up with a toxic parent, dear reader?

#FallingInLove

Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I were having a “discussion.” One of the things that I love about Amit is how we talk about the things that bother us. For the first time in my relationship history I’m trying to fix problems, not my partner. It’s a difficult trait to change in myself but I feel like I’m a better girlfriend because of it. At the end of our talk, I was so filled with emotion and Amit was smiling at me in the most goofy way. I just blurted out, “I love you!” 

I knew that I felt this way about Amit for the last couple of weeks. Our relationship has been an interesting one. We talk often about our future as couple and what that looks like. For the majority of my life, I thought that relationships like this: You meet. Date for a couple of months. Fall in love and express it to each other. After a year of dating, move into together. Live together for a year and get engaged. Plan your lavish wedding and get hitched. Two years later, have a baby. And a few years later, have another. And during that time, you are completely devoted to one another, absolutely happy and in love with each other.

Well, that “perfect” relationship doesn’t exist.

I’m letting go of a lot of relationship “truths” these days. I thought the perfect relationship had to look a certain way (ie: that you have to be head over heels in love with your partner all day, every day and be together constantly as a pair, or that a relationship has to be completely and totally equal, with equal give and take). But there is no wrong way to have a good, strong and loving relationship.

After I told Amit that I loved him, he didn’t say it back. Instead, he told me that he really cared about me and was happy to be my boyfriend. Old me would have been upset with him not saying that he loved me back. But new me is feeling secure with his response and where our relationship is headed. I’m no longer putting my expectations on to a timeline. I just want to enjoy hanging out with my boyfriend and not put rush into anything. Of course, I want him to love me. But I know that he needs to feel it- and say it- on his terms. I know that our relationship isn’t perfect but that this moment, it’s perfect for us. 

How is your love life, dear reader?

#CoVOID

It is certainly a weird time to be alive right now. As the world and myself slowly move out of our COVID-19 quarantines, I’m still lost on how I should handle “normal life”- is it safe to go out to my favorite places? Can I make plans to visit my sick mom a few states away? Am I able to hug my friends again? With all the information out there, am I being informed or misinformed? I feel stuck. I’ve felt stuck most of my life but this time, I’m a hard time shaking this off. 

When I first started quarantining back in March, my introverted heart was ecstatic. I get to spend all this alone time doing hobbies and not seeing anyone in the flesh. I quarantined with my boyfriend, which proved to be disastrous (we broke up but got back together a month later. We don’t quarantine together anymore). Even though I love hanging out with him, I realized how much I miss my friends and what a vital part of my good mental health they attributed to. I’m lonely for them. 

I’ve been fortunate to work during this time. While I have issues with my job (ie. my hours have been slashed to very part-time), I’m grateful for my position. I can still pay my rent and buy groceries. I’m still job hunting for something better, something in marketing or editorial with full-time hours and health insurance. I send out applications every day and average an interview a week. I should feel lucky with getting interviews but I know that so many people are not working right now and are applying for the same positions I am. My Imposter Syndrome kicks in, mixing with my depression- I honestly feel like I’m not going to find that job until sometime next year. I’m worry about my finances. 

I stopped reading the news. I usually know what’s going on in the world and now, I don’t (I didn’t know about the explosion in Beirut until two days after the accident). I’m off all social media platforms except Twitter (hey, I need one vice). I don’t make much of an effort with my appearance anymore. I stopped wearing makeup since my mask covers must of it. A good day for me is one where I can make it through work and then still have the energy to put in applications and maybe clean my bathroom or have sex in the evening. 

Needless to say, I’m in this black void. My depression before all this was high. The coronavirus has definitely elevated those feelings of sadness and despair. It’s a fight every day to stay positive and remind myself of the good in my life and in the world right now. Most days, I just want to sleep and not take care of myself and my responsibilities. But somehow (God only know), I manage to wake up, stumble out of bed, brush my teeth, call my mom, get to work, do chores and cuddle with my cat and my boyfriend. I remind myself that I’m not alone- the rest of the world is hurting; some more deeply than me. I’ve been listening to Michelle Obama’s new podcast right now- she is going through it, too. I tell myself that this mess of a year will be over with- a vaccine will come and politics will be soon shifting in a more progressive direction. I will get that job and be able to introduce Amit to my family in person. While it’s difficult to see, the future will be better.

How are you doing, dear reader?

#Paula

Paula Fletcher was my mother’s best friend since they were in sixth grade. They grew up around the corner from each other in New Jersey and celebrated various life milestones together- she was the maid of honor at both of my mother’s weddings (to my father and then, her second husband). A couple of years back, I traveled to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with Paula where we jammed out to the Purple Rain soundtrack and burned a turkey. The last conversation I had with her was back in April, asking her if she needed anything, any help through the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that she was fine and hoped that I was doing well in Austin. Paula recently died of heart failure. She was 58 years old.

I’ve been helping my mom sort through her funeral details. It’s been a challenge with COVID-19 but somehow, we’re making it work. Paula didn’t have much of a family life- my mom was considered her family, and Paula was never married. I asked Mom about this. Growing up, I remember Paula being around often but without a boyfriend or a partner. She said that Paula dated quite a lot but never found “the one.” She focused on her work and her friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about that these past few days, how Paula didn’t have a significant other in her life. She never seemed lonely. Paula had her friends, my mom especially. I can’t help but compare her story to my own- dating around but never settling on one person.

I’ve been floating in and out of relationships this year. My relationships lean more towards a sexual gratification which is great- it’s what I need, and I’m finding myself more alone during the hours that I’m not working. I’m really enjoying this alone time, catching up on books and painting. Perhaps I’m bitter from my last break-up but I struggle with seeing the purpose of a partner. I’m doing great without one. This time, being quarantined, has taught me that I am all-encompassing and I very much enjoy being alone. I don’t want to be with anyone.

What are the benefits of being partnered? Do the benefits of being single outweigh them? I think about Paula and her free spirit without the need to answer to anyone (although my inner feminist says that you don’t need to answer to a partner to begin with). She didn’t need permission or to check in with anyone. She didn’t have children. I asked my mom if Paula ever expressed desire to have kids and she said that she was fine being to the “cool aunt” to me and my siblings. I however, unlike Paula, aspire to have children. Lately, the only benefit that I can come up with to having a partner is to have someone to raise children with (I like to note that I do have several sperm donor options for when/if I choose to have a kid on my own). I have read the benefits of raising a child in a traditional mother/father household. But then again. I know of so many women who are raising bright and well adjusted kids alone, by themselves, as well as great people who were raised by a single parent.

As always, my thoughts eventually venture to death. I like to think that it would be nice to have someone hold my hand on my death bed but then I ask myself if it is the worst thing to die alone? Don’t we all die alone anyway? There are many benefits to being single (I know… I just Googled a bunch). I used to think worst thing in the world was being alone. So much so that I’d chase these awful relationships with awful men who destroyed me emotionally. I once heard that your 20s is when you make the mistakes and your 30s is when you learn the lessons from them. Now at the ripe age of 34, I’ve been reviewing such past mistakes of mine and I came to this conclusion: I’m really good at being single and I really enjoy it. Same as Paula.

Rest in peace, Paula. We miss you and will love you forever. And you, dear reader; even if you’re alone, I hope you don’t feel alone. Being single isn’t a curse- its a gift.

#FiveYearPlan

My little sister is pregnant and I’m having a hard time being happy for her. I have to admit that I’ve always been jealous of this particular sister. In high school, I was envious of how she was skinner than me, had a cute boyfriend and seemed to be known and loved by everyone. She eventually pursued a career that I thought about chasing myself, got married and resided in city that I have dreamed of living in. As I’ve gotten older, I sat with these feelings and learned where they came from (my own insecurities, unnecessary parental pressures and judgements, etc). These days, I’m wise enough to know that I can’t compare my life to anyone else’s but this news still hurts. I want that life. My life is supposed to look like that… but it doesn’t.

I’m still in the middle of job hunting and I spend each morning asking myself interview questions to prep. My “favorite” question (and note the quotation marks) is where do you see yourself in five years? As much as I practice the answer to this questions aloud, I still have no solid, concerete idea. If someone asked me this question in 2015, I would have never have thought, “I’d be in quarantine from COVID-19.” Although I can’t exactly see where I am, I can imagine the way I feel in 2025- I’m feeling supported and successful with my job. I’m happy and in love in a romantic relationship. I’m enjoying the comforts of my apartment, the companionship of friends and feeling mental and physically strong.

It’s halfway into the 2020 and I know that the majority of the world threw out their yearly plans with the rise of Coronavirus. I know that I have. I feel like I have thrown away most of my plans since arriving to Texas almost two years ago (ask me why I call Austin, “the curse”). I recently figured out while it is good to have plans and keep planning for the future (especially financially), life happens. Epidemics happen. Job loss happens. Break ups happen. Bullshit happens. And that’s okay. I had this exact plan of how I wanted things to develop this year. None of those plans came to fruition so I’m just letting all of that go. As much as I love planning every single detail of my life, I’m just going to be for a while.

I know what I will- one day- get the job I’m desperately seeking, that dreamy relationship, my future family, etc. It will most definitely won’t go the way I plan but I feel like I’m half way there to what I’m envisioning for myself- I’m here in Austin where there are a lot of opportunity and I have a solid group of friends here and around the globe. Regardless of what my life feels like it lacks, my life is full at the moment and it’s only going to feel fuller. I just need to relax, be patient and keep ever so slowly pushing forward.

How are you taking a step back, dear reader? Do you have a five year plan?

#i2i

It’s okay if you don’t see “i2i…”

The last couple of weeks have been difficult ones. We are angry. I’m furious. I feel helpless. I started posting images of the various Black Lives Matter protests around the world on my social media accounts. Signs that spoke truths. Fists in the air. Looks of exhaustion from the participants. As I expected, I lost some followers and Facebook friends after I posted. What I didn’t expect was some of the direct messages and comments that followed. 

It is a tense time in the Untied States and during times like these, we all need a reminder of how to stay respectful and kind to each other. It’s okay to express your opinion. It’s okay to stay quiet. It’s okay if you don’t have an opinion. These days, I honestly tell people that I don’t have an opinion about current topics because I haven’t been following the news (it’s okay to be a self-called “news junkie” but stop listening to/reading the news for self care). I want to be able to make the most informed opinion possible but I’m not staying up-to-date to do so. It’s okay have conflicting opinions with your loved ones. It’s okay to think someone’s wrong. But it is not okay to send harsh words and threats. I have to admit that in my past, I’ve sent some mean messages about what I strongly believed in, political or not. While it felt good to get those frustrations out, I now know it was wrong to do that. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to learn new information and form a different opinion. And it’s okay to seek out forgiveness for these past judgements that you’re unlearning. 

The world is a mess right now. It’s a lot between the protests, COVID-19, the uptick in unemployment and other issues that I can’t fathom right now. Fear and anger are running rampant and it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling at this moment. It’s okay if we all don’t see eye to eye right now. But we all need to do our best to respect each other- our bodies, our rights, our thoughts and our feelings. 

And yes, dear reader, Black Lives Matter