#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

#TheBestOf2019

I’m going to skip my usual ramble about how good entertainment was this year (it was SO good) and get to the meat of this post. Let’s go!

MOVIES. This year, I worked at an art house cinema and one of the perks of working there was the chance to see movies for free. I took advantage of that opportunity as often as I could and saw some gems that I would have never considered. I was blown away by a lot of the movies that the production company, A24, put out but there were a few films that were particularly special to me.

  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco. This is my favorite movie of the year, hands down. There’s this scene in the middle of the film where one of the characters stares into a mirror, puffs up his chest and tries to replicate the mannerisms of one of his peers. If you’re like me and spent a good time questioning your racial identity and mimicked stereotypes from your culture, you will understand that scene. It broke me and made me cry. But I loved it. Everything about the movie is beautiful. Seeing San Francisco filmed so vibrantly made me yearn for the West Coast- this cover does, too.
  • The Lighthouse. What a wonderfully weird movie… I hope it’s nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards next year (maybe for Best Foreign Language Film because I had no idea what Willem Dafoe was saying a good chunk of the time). The song playing over the closing credit WILL get stuck in your head- I sing it to my cat quite often.
  • Midsommer. I’m not a horror person. I watch scary movies through the cracks of my fingers as they cover my eyes. But man, this movie was fantastic. It doesn’t play into the traditional horror troupes, the ones with lots of blood and gore. The movie is bright and cheerful at points. It does have the Final Girl troupe– and she does came back triumphantly.
  • Hustlers. Not going to lie- I love strip clubs. And I loved this movie. Yeah, the ending was abrupt but can we just talk about the make-up- all that black eyeliner and glitter? My high school self ate up those costumes. I also love how JLo asked Fiona Apple permission to use her song, “Criminal” in the movie. Jennifer Lopez is an icon. Puerto Rican pride all the way.
  • Avengers: Endgame. I’m so tired of superhero movies. I loved Black Panther but I didn’t see the majority of the other Marvel films. I saw Avengers: Infinity War (my friend, Ashley, dragged me by the ear to see it with her) and I liked it (mostly because of Chris Evans- hello, nurse!) But man, was this a solid end to a story building up the last ten years (unlike a series about a certain Jedi…Ugh).

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

TELEVISION. This year was an especially hard one for me and TV was such a comfort. I loved coming home from work, making myself dinner and binging on something until I went to bed. I sought out shows that took me out of my life and I discovered- rediscovered- some gems. (And yes, I have to mention Game of Thrones. The last episode was the first full one I watched and honestly, I didn’t think it was terrible. I’ll get through the series eventually.)

  • Euphoria (HBO). After the credits of the final GoT episode, HBO previewed a trailer for Euphoria, a high school drama featuring Zendaya. I will always stand for tales of high school (Can’t Hardly Wait continues to be one of my favorites) so I decided to check it out. Man, high school has changed A LOT since I was a student. Maybe for the better? Maybe for the worse? I don’t know. But I loved this show. It’s dark yet colorful. The acting is stellar. And the music… I’ll get to that later.
  • Watchmen (HBO). I’m one of the few who actually like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. So when HBO announced that they’re bringing the series to their network, I was pumped! What a roller coaster those episodes were- just give Regina King her Emmy now! I’m bummed that audiences didn’t love the show as much as I did. I hope that HBO continues with the series despite what viewers thought- ahem, the pool scene in the last episode. If you saw that, you know what I’m talking about and I know that you want to know what happens next.
  • Mr. Robot (USA). I have to admit that I stopped waiting Mr. Robot after the second season (a lot of people did). Something told me to start watching again this season and boy, I’m glad that I did. Like Watchmen, this season is this gradually build up of intensity. There’s this episode in the middle of this season that almost feels like a play with the four leads bouncing line after line off each other. Rami Malek’s eyes alone do so much talking and connecting. There is ONLY one episode left of the series. I can’t wait to see how it ends (I’m guessing a time loop?).
  • Unbelievable (Netflix). I was recommend this show several times but finally gave it a watch because Toni Collette is a powerhouse in it. It’s a tough to view (especially when you are a survivor of sexual assault) but the ending is so satisfying. I can’t believe that this series of events happened and I’m glad the story is being visually told. I also highly recommend a book about the case. I just finished it and WOW. (Side note: I need to write more long form pieces. New Year’s resolution #1 is getting back into journalistic reporting somewhere, somehow.)
  • Sex Education (Netflix). Quirky. Fun. British. Do I need to say more? Sex Education was another recommendation and let’s face it- Gillian Anderson makes the show. I love how eager her character is to fix everyone’s love/sex life. I can’t wait for the next season. I want more and more.
  • Modern Love (Amazon). I fell in love with The New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column a few years ago and gobbled up tales of romantic, heartbreak and New York City. When the show was released, I binged the entire season in bed with a bowl of ice cream and six glasses of wine. My favorite story is in the  third episode that features Anne Hathaway. As someone who has depression, I related to this episode’s message so much (another side note: dating when you have  a mental illness can be tough but remember to be kind to yourself as if you’re the person you’re seeing).
  • Conan Without Borders (TBS). Conan O’Brien will always be my favorite late night host. I was devastated what happened to him at NBC but Conan only came back stronger. He and his team have this great segment where they travel to various part of the world, interview the locals and learn their customs. It’s brilliant, hilarious and at times, incredibly touching. This year, Conan went to Australia and Greenland but it was his trip to Ghana that was most impressive. He went to experience the Year of Return, which marks 400 years of the first enslaved Africans arriving in Jamestown Virginia. That particular episode was so insightful and Conan hosted with love and grace. Please give him the funding for a full-time travel show already.
  • Joe Pera Talks With You (Adult Swim/ Cartoon Network). Are you having a bad day? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad week? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad month? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. A bad year? Watch Joe Pera Talks With You. Joe offers the most wholesome humor in each 10-minute episode. Start with episode six of the first season and let your worries melt away. Your heart will sing and your face will hurt from smiling so much.
  • YouTube. Does YouTube count as television? Sure, it does! GQ and Vanity Fair‘s YouTube channels have this awesome series where different actors break down movies from their careers, adding fun trivia and tidbits about their directors and costars. Most recently, the publications have had Kathy Bates and Jack Black talking about the highlights of their most memorable films. The Pastry Chef Attempts to Make Gourmet series on Bon Appétit‘s channel is the perfect watch when you need something light and comforting (and are done with Joe Pera). I want to be BFFs with their chef, Claire Saffitz– can we make gourmet Maltesers together, please?

MUSIC. Look, I listen to the same ten songs on Spotify account, as well as the same six podcasts. It usually takes an act from God for me to listen to something new so when I do, I scream about it. Below is some of the reasons why I have a sore throat now:

  • “The Ride” by Amanda Palmer. It was a Sunday after a terrible week. I spent the day before in bed, didn’t shower but needed from coffee. I put on clothes, found the New Music tab in Spotify and walked to Starbucks for a latte. “The Ride” was the first song that came up. I stopped midway and cried as I listened to the lyrics. I only knew Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls, a band my college roommate loved. I’m a fan now. From the sweeping carousel sounds to the lyrics about getting off the ride… I can lie in bed and listen to it over and over and over again and somehow, it makes me feel safe and less alone.
  • Lil Nas X and Lizzo. It was their year. Need I say more? I love them both and all of the positivity they both stand for.
  • “Medellín” by Madonna and Maluma. I tried to challenge myself musically this year and break away from my regular song rotation, incorporating more Latin music through my day. 2020 will be the year I finally become fluent in Spanish and I had a good refreshers translating lyrics from Latin pop hits. I also am my mother’s daughter and thus, will be a Madonna fan for the rest of my life. This year, she release Madame X which featured a lot of Latin-inspired rhythm and beats. She brought Maluma, this fantastic Colombian singer, on a few tracks and they make magic for your ears.
  • “I Know” by King Princess and Fiona Apple. Who knows when Fiona Apple will release a new album? Until then, I devoured this reworking of her song with King Princess. I have no idea why this version feels more “Fiona Apple” then the original version but nevertheless, it’s gorgeous.
  • “All For Us” by Zendaya and Labrinth. I raved about Euphoria earlier. The show is fantastic but the music is… whoa. The closing scene uses a reworking of a Labrinth song which now features Zendaya. Just do me a favor and watch the YouTube clip. Trust me. Do it.
  • Music from Avengers: Endgame. Alan Silvestri was given the incredible task of scoring the biggest movie of the year and boy, is it good! From the building crescendo of the strings to the thunderous brass and percussion, listening to the whole album makes me feel like a superhero. It’s my favorite music to run to (I pretend that I’m Captain Marvel when I do).
  • Music inspired by Game of Thrones: I didn’t watch GoT but I listened to a lot of great music inspired by the series- like this YouTube video that I played countless times (man, I wish that I could play like Tom Morello). The Weeknd, SZA and Travis Scott also came out with this great little number that I fell for.

MUSIC OF THE DECADE. I wanted to add something about the musicians that inspired me this most this decade. Music has the been the form of entertainment that  shaped my soul the most and I can think about the two artists that I will always rep and hold close to my heart.

  • Lana Del Rey. I was living in Brooklyn in 2011 when I first heard the songstress’s voice for the first time. “Blue Jeans” was moody and haunting and pulled me in instantly. I just went through my first break-up with a boyfriend and Lana felt like the pain of losing a first love. She felt like New York City. I followed her career closely since and have been memorized by everything she puts out. Lana is my musical best friend, getting me through bouts of depression and pumping me up for a night out.
  • James Blake. One of my favorite TV shows ended this year. “iZombie” had its ups and downs but in its first season’s finale, “Retrograde” by James Blake was heavily featured. I heard that loop of his vocals and hooked. As decade progressed, I appreciated the fact that he collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce.  James is so innovative and gives me the chills. I had the privilege of seeing him live this past autumn and I stood in the crowd mentally sobbing with the biggest smile on my face. I love him and everything he stands for.

What were your favorites of the year, dear reader?

#WhenIGrowUp

I loved lobbyist life but will I love being a lawyer?

I blame Michael Cabrera.

My junior year of college, Michael asked me to be his campaign manager for the Vice President race of our university’s student body. I never was a campaign manager- hell, I only met Michael the semester before- but he believed in me and liked my vision and campaign strategies. I worked hard (especially when election week consigned with midterms- I didn’t sleep that week as I spent the day studying and the night screenprinting “Vote for MC” t-shirts).  I became addicted to campaign politics, which grew into an obsession of national politics. (Oh- and Michael won.)

It was 2008 and I was seriously considering a career in the political arena. I was graduating with a journalism degree and liked public relations but there was something about government work that was calling to me. And what were most lawmakers before they became so? Lawyers. Attorneys. BINGO! I wanted to be a lawyer. I started telling everyone I knew that I was interested in going to law school. It was going to happen. But then, life happened as it always does. I applied to the Peace Corps to elevate my resume and job experience (I didn’t get in the first time but did the second time and ended up declining the offer). I dropped out of school and didn’t finish until four years later.

Still, eight years later, law school has been on my mind. A lot of career thoughts have been these last several months. Although I like my job and am great at my job, I want to do something more mentally fulfilling. I just don’t know exactly what. Here’s what I do know, though: I like helping people, whether it’s registering them to vote or serving them a cocktail. I’m a good, solid writer. I like telling stories. I’m creative and openminded, with the willingness to try anything and everything once. With all that said, I don’t know what career path is best for me based on those qualities. With the current political system, I feel like there are several groups of people and issues that I can fight positively for. But then, I start thinking about all the other paths that I could possibly do…

  • A marine biologist. Elementary school Andrea wanted to be a marine biologist so she could swim with dolphins and train seals. Then, she realized how much math being a biologist took and decided to go a different route (even though, now and again, I still think about swimming with some ocean friends and educating the public about our oceans and climate change).
  • A news reporter, telling the stories firsthand from war-torn countries. I recently finished a biography about Marie Colvin, an award-winning journalist who died covering the Syrian War. In high school, I envisioned myself roaming sub-Saharan Africa, interviewing locals about politics. Now, in my 30s, I still dream of traveling the world with a reporter’s notebook in one hand and a camera in the other, telling the stories that no one reports on and featuring the most dangerous places in the world.
  • A movie director. Another high school dream. I’m obsessed with movies and I spent the latter half of my 20s kicking myself for not going to film school. I now know that every successful film director doesn’t have to attend NYU or AFI and I’ve written a dozen screenplays and treatments. I’m currently taking a break from the sci-fi short film that I’m working on. But I still want to be doing more. I could be doing more…
  • A happily married wife and mother to a handful of happy and healthy kids (foster kids included!). I want to experience pregnancy and childbirth. I want to make breakfast and dinner for my family every day, volunteer in their classrooms, cheer their sports team every game and read bedtime stories every night.

Maybe it’s millennial angst and indecisiveness. They could be the reasons why I and so many others can’t figure out just what we want to do for the rest of our lives. But maybe it’s more. A few Christmas ago, my stepmother and I were talking about work when she said something that hit me profoundly- she told me that she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. I was stunned. She seemed to love her job, a special education teacher. She even got a masters degree in education. I asked myself, how could she want anything else?

Now, I get it. I just hope that I can figure out my path soon.

What do you want to be when you “grow up,” dear reader?

#IndependenceDay

I’m a proud American… even though it’s difficult to be one these days. Each morning on my way to work, I hear about someone in our presidential administration making poor decisions. Too much hate and ignorance. Not enough compassion and respect. The news may make me sick stomach most days but I am ever so the political Pollyanna. I have this incredible hope for our country. With this sense of hope, I know that there are people working incredibly hard to push the USA in the right moral direction. Things are not perfect (and they probably won’t be for a long time- unless Michelle Obama announces that she’s running for president. And if that’s the case, sorry Kamala). Nevertheless, every relationship has its ups and downs and it’s important to recognize what is working and what is not- including the relationship we all have with our country… I know that living here is a privilege and I’m grateful for so much.

  • I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my country and its leaders and policymakers.
  • I’m grateful that I have the right to choose- choose what kind of career I wish to pursue. I can choose whomever I want to love. I can choose what to wear and what to do with my free time.
  • I don’t necessarily believe in “God” but I am thankful to live in a country where I’m able to practice any religion I want to.
  • I love our country’s mass diversity and its rapid multifariousness growth.
  • I’m thankful for the natural and man-made beauty of our country- it really is America the Beautiful, with its gorgeous beaches, forests, deserts, and mountain ranges and all our gloriously massive metropolitans.
  • I’m grateful for our freedom of speech in its many forms. I can express adoration and hate in whatever way I choose with limited backlash from the government.

As in any relationship, there should be some time spent reflecting and questioning on how to be the best partner you can be. What can you and I do to truly make the United States the best country in the world? How can we better our relationships with the USA?

  • Get your news from multiple sources (and make sure to check the timestamp for accuracy). If you’re relying on a single media outlet for information, you are limiting your understanding of what’s happening in this country and around the world.
  • Volunteer in your community. Feed the homeless. Read to small children. Play with some shelter animals. We need to put humanity back into our society and volunteering is the perfect place to start.
  • Break the negative cycle. We’re privileged to live in a country with lax internet laws and regulations-  but that doesn’t mean that you can be a jerk about things. Stop sharing memes and other information that contain inflammatory and hateful messaging. Don’t fight on social media. Unfollow, unfriend or block people that are abusive or overly offensive.
  • Celebrate ALL Americans. The wonderful thing about the US is that it does not entail just one race, one culture, one gender, one orientation, one language or one religion. America is meant to be a place for everyone, a place of new opportunities and a place that welcomes all. We need to be welcoming and kind to the differences of others.

The United States of America is already great, dear reader. We have so much to be thankful for as Americans- but we can still push our country to grow and strengthen its empathy, tact and graciousness  (I’m now off to watch “Independence Day” for the millionth time this week).

#LoseYourself

I watch “Eat Pray Love” once a year. I don’t know why I’m charmed by Julia Roberts but I somehow manage to get something new out of the movie every time I watch it (this time around, I realized that I need a champion). At the beginning of the film Robert’s character, Elizabeth Gilbert, first meets James Franco’s character, who is acting in a terrible play (unfortunately written by Gilbert). Gilbert writes how she falls head over heels with everyone she dates. She loses herself in every relationship. Maybe why I connect with that movie so much is because I’ve seen so much of myself in Gilbert- I, too, am a woman who gets lost in her lovers.

That was the case with my longest relationship- we both got lost in each other. I was acting in a play one summer and he got upset that he never saw me between work, rehearsals and going out with my friends. We fought about it constantly through the duration of the play and afterward, I decided to stop pursuing any creative projects for the time being. I settled into a newer relationship dynamic and grew to love it. When we did eventually break up, I thought about how I caved into his pressure. I did it out of my love for him but I realized that I lost something in the process- myself. I became so wrapped up in him and what he wanted that I was just known as his girlfriend to everyone and myself. I was no longer Andrea.

After I ended that relationship, I told myself that I would never get that lost in a person again. Okay, I might have broken that promise (yikes) but I recognized that and I’m trying to put that feeling into something more constructive- writing, painting, dancing. Even church. I want to feel that all-consuming feeling again. I had it for a moment- I became wrapped up in volunteering for a good two years and loved doing that. But since moving to Texas, I can’t find that feeling (unless you count sleeping and depression).

I want to get lost in something again- definitely not a person but an activity. I’m still trying to figure out a hobby. I’ve been reading about how to find that feeling again- many blogs I’ve been reading say to connect with your dreams. What are the things that I’ve always wanted to do? Since my diagnosis, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Granted, I am not dying but what if I was? What would be the things that I’ve always wanted to do? I have to figure that one out.

What do you get lost in, dear reader? What consumes your daily thoughts? Is it positive or negative? How did you get lost in it? By thinking about it every second? By practicing this task? By falling in love with it?