#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?

#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?

#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.

#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

#MentalHealthMonth

This week was hard. George Floyd. Christian Cooper. 1 out of 4 Americans are unemployed. My low-key but nevertheless painful break up. News from my family. Stress about my job and other future work opportunities. Expectations. All of this on top of COVID-19. A lot of people feel like they can’t win- myself included.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. May coincides with one of the most complex and challenging periods in United States’ recent history and we know that mental health is more important than ever- its recognition shouldn’t be limited to a one sole month. For those going through mental health struggles, life is especially difficult at this moment and it’s okay to mentally feel like garbage.

It’s okay to feel hopeless and not know what you can do to help. It’s okay to cry (I have done so multiple times this week). It’s okay to be angry, mad with yourself and upset with others. It’s okay that you don’t know what to say- I certainly don’t. It’s okay to be numb. It’s okay to feel hurt and bothered. It’s okay to be envious. It’s okay to feel lazy and unmotivated. It’s okay to sleep. It’s okay to be confused and not pick a side. It’s okay to feel lonely and alone (even though I promise that you’re not). It’s okay to feel low and depressed and anxious. These are not bad feelings. They are human feelings and they are allowed to be felt and examined. They are meant to be shared and talked about. If you are struggling, there are resources out there to help you. If you are struggling, I am with you AND am here for you.

So, tell me truthfully, dear reader… how are you taking care of yourself mentally during 2020? Continue to fight the stigma and fight for your happiness and well-being. Just remember to take a deep breath- I’m along side of you.

#InYourCorner

Who wouldn’t want Michael B. in their corner?

I have a few dating rules; even more so for a breakup. One of those rules is that I can’t stay friends with an ex. Once we break up, I delete their number from my phone and remove myself from each other’s social media accounts. Okay, I do make a few exceptions to this rule but I’m firm most of the time. Que in my most recent breakup: I’m ready to wipe him from my life but he asks me to stay friends. I shook my head, knowing that he knew about my rule. Rules exists for a reason and that reason is to protect myself. I get severely attached in relationships, and a swift and clean break has always been the best way for me to mend my broken heart.

Amit was adamant about staying friends. He wanted more friends in the Austin area and he needed support from one of the few friends he had recently came out to. I thought about his rationale, us staying friends. I asked myself that if he wants to be my friend so badly, is it bad having another person in your corner? I never had anyone insist that we stay friends before. If Amit was so eager to stay in my life, what would be wrong with that?

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship this past week, especially after reading this quote from David Whtye:

In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.

I think about the people I’ve had the longest relationships with- my “ride and dies.” In my experience, most relationships fizzle out. They ebb and flow. We grow apart which is fine and natural (just a little sad). But it is those other friendships with the people that continue to thrive and flourish. They see the darkness in you but continue to love you and grant you grace, give you kindness, flood your soul with peace. COVID-19 and the past couple of years have done a number on my heart and my body, tearing out chunks of myself. But my friends have picked back up the broken pieces and made me whole again. Today, I write this post for the people who have always rooted for me. I write for the ones who have fed my spirit with positivity and love:

Nancy. Courtney. Annie. Peter. Nick. Ashley W. Lisa. Marla. My countless coworkers. Eric. Hallie. Hector. Valerie. Chris B. The riders with the Sunday Social Ride. The ATX Biking  Betties. Lupe. Christina. Trenna.  Linda. Emma. Ryan. Jay. Ellie. Ashley B. Jerald. Joy. Tara. Tyler. Chase. Tom. Saffeya. Nathan. Clarissa. Maggie. Sarah. Cece. Amit. Thank you for being my friend.

Who is in your corner, dear reader?

#ChaChing

What can I do for you? is a question that I’ve asked a little too much in my life- and it’s starting to bother me.

I realized that most of my relationships are transactional. Not necessarily in a financial way but I’m always trying to do something that counters my partner’s kindness. Example: My ex took me out to a really expensive dinner one evening on his dime. I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu but still felt bad. Later in the weekend, I deep cleaned his kitchen as a way to say “thank you” despite saying the words a thousand times over dinner. The same has happened with friends- when I was in college, I didn’t own a car but I hated accepting rides from my friends. I always insisted on paying them back for their time or for gas money and did everything in my power to return the favor.

Perhaps it’s the guilt that I feel most of the time. I have a hard time accepting help and generosity. Maybe it’s my lack of self-confidence and my constant questioning of why people want to be my friend or date me (even though my feelings of positive self-worth have steadily grown over the last couple of years). But I don’t have the ability to just let a relationship be and evolve from that.

I’m trying to rewire my brain into rethinking my relationships and its benefits (or lack of benefits). Old Andrea used to think if a relationship is not mutually beneficial and not close to a 50/50 give and take, it’s not a true relationship. A transactional relationship is one where both parties are in it for themselves, where partners do things for each other with the expectation of reciprocation. People tend to date a person because of what they get out of it (sex, date nights, whatever). There are some relationships reach where people do things for each other just to make the other person happy. Some relationships transcend selfishness and reach a place where both partners are happy in large part because the other partner is happy without getting anything else out of it. So, how do I do that? How do I fix my brain to be more accepting?

This makes me wonder if these relationships are genuine or are we all just using each other in some way. I like to believe the former because I truly care about the people in my life and I would do just about anything for anyone. So, why can’t I believe that those same people would do the same for me just out of the kindness of their hearts?

How are your relationships, dear reader? Do they feel transactional or more genuine?

#AnotherCWord

Can we talk about another C word? Comradery.

I’ve been running a lot in my boyfriend’s neighborhood since the start of COVID-19. He lives in a part of Austin where a lot of senior citizens live. Usually I blast my music through my headphones but lately, I’ve been running without tunes and try to say hello to those I run by. People are friendly and thank me as I stay the mandated six feet apart as I sprint by. I always see this older gentleman walking his toy poodle every morning. The first day I met him, I screamed from across the street, “Good morning! OH MY GOD-  you have the cutest dog! Aren’t you the fluffiest fluff in the world!” Now the man lets his dog run across the street so I can pet it and give it some quick loving.

We’re living in the strangest timeline with the Coronavirus but I’m trying to make the best of it. People are scared and anxious. I know when I feel that way, I need to be around people. But because that isn’t safe to do, I’m exploring other ways to reach out and be kind. I’ve been on Zoom and Houseparty chats almost daily with friends. I text my besties almost every day, checking in on their mental health and levels of boredom. The USPS is still up and running so I’ve been mailing postcards and love letters. I signed up for Table Wisdom, which pairs mentors and mentees together online to chat, as well as the People’s Dialer. When I’m at the grocery store, I thank the staff for working (I also tip when I can). I seek out that level of friendship and gratitude, that level of comradery that makes people feel good (even an introvert like me).

Thank God for the internet. If you look, there are a lot of ways others are reaching out and giving back online. Celebs are lending their voices, reading children’s books aloud online. Prestigious colleges and universities are offering free online courses (check out courses from Coursera and Harvard University). Museums, galleries and zoos around the globe are offering free virtual tours. One of my favorite things that has come out of the Coronavirus is the live sets my favorite artists are doing- DJs, producers and bands all over the world are live streaming from their own living rooms (I highly recommend D Nice’s Club Quarantine, sets by my “husband,” Diplo and Kayper and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard’s cover sessions). Sure, it doesn’t make up for being in a club but their sets remind us that we will be at concerts, venues and cook outs together again soon.

Living in the time of COVID-19 has been a lonely period for some. I texted one of my friends in Philly who lives alone. He hasn’t been out of his apartment for weeks and misses touching people- shaking hands, giving and receiving hugs and and fist bumps.  Even those in relationships are being tested. I truthfully thought that being quarantined with my boyfriend would lead us to being more physical (especially since our relationship is so new) but I was wrong. We spend a good chunk of our day alone, doing our own thing which can be pretty lonely.

If you are feeling alone, I do encourage you to reach out. There are a lot of resources out there (including things like free therapy apps like Youper and Moodpath. If you’re looking for professional help, check out this NPR article for a list of affordable resources). This is a difficult time right now but the entire world is in this together. You may be by yourself but you are not truly alone.

What are you doing to reach out to your friends, loved ones, even strangers, dear reader?

 

#TwoTruths

Why, hello! It’s me!

Have you ever played the game Two Truth and a Lie? It’s popular when you’re trying to get to know someone (at least that’s what Hinge says…) The version that I’m playing is Two Truths and Then I’m Lying Down to go to Bed (I need to be up at 4am).

I’ve been thinking a lot about two different ideas the last couple of days. I turn 34 later in the week and I already had a panic attack about what I haven’t accomplished during my time on the planet. I have to admit that I have this anxiety attack every year. The older I get, the better I get about self-soothing and reminding myself that I have done A LOT with my life and that I’m okay. This past Sunday reminded me of this. After a morning of tears, I decided to hop on my bike and meet some friends for a drink. We toasted with tequila to my upcoming birthday, somehow managed to find slices of cake (sorry to the baby shower we crashed), rode our bikes through my favorite neighborhood and shared grilled cheeses. I made new friends, flirted a bit and had fun- it was the perfect end of the day and start of my birthday week.

As I biked home that evening, I thought to myself how I obsess so much about getting the “perfect” life with that job and that relationship and buying those things. My life isn’t perfect but it is pretty good. I let perfection be the enemy of good and I need to start focusing on all the good stuff in my life- my friends, my job, the fact that I live in such a beautiful city. It’s time to celebrate that. Sure, I can still work on my goals. There is still a lot that I want to achieve, especially this year. I can be driven and hungry and want a bigger, better life but still be happy.

Any new revelations with you, dear reader? (And happy March birthdays!)

#GrooveCruise

This trip healed a piece of my soul that I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

My best friend, Nick, visited me last year after my initial cancer diagnosis. He arrived to Austin bronzed and happy, flying in from a trip he was eager to tell me all about: Groove Cruise. It’s a five day cruise from Miami that focuses on positive music and good vibes. I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise- my mom and I have talked since I was in high school about going on an Alaskan cruise through the glaciers together. I listened intensively to Nick’s stories of all-night dance parties, the ocean breeze and the people that he met. At that time, I needed something to look forward to; perhaps something to live for. I was beyond stressed with work and my health concerns so I decided to commit to the cruise. I put down a despot and paid off the trip over the course of the year, looking forward to the day I would sail the Caribbean Sea.

Flash forward to this year…  I won’t be lying when I write that I spent this last week in heaven. I didn’t know what to expect going in. Frankly, I was terrified that I wasn’t going to have fun. But boy, I did ever. Not only was there lifting music but there was beautiful art and the kindest, most generous people on board. I was given the opportunity to volunteer at a school in Costa Maya, Mexico, clearing a field so a playground could be built. I played like a mermaid in ocean and I felt a love and bond from my friends that I haven’t experienced in at least a decade.

While a large part of me is a bit disappointed to be back in my currently reality, I think about the lessons that I learned aboard and what I can do to incorporate them into my life here in Texas. How I restore myself when I’m at home? How can I be vulnerable with love and kindness, not only for myself but others? Here are some of my takeaways:

  • I need to have more fun in my life. I need to go out more, meet new people, go on more vacations and travel. So, why don’t I? Because I refuse to pop my comfort zone bubble. I know that I’m terrified about social interactions- I don’t want to look or sound stupid. But when I do pop it, great things happen. The entire cruise experience ripped me from that bubble. But I had to do the work, which meant getting out of my room whenever I could (even if the cabin was adorable), engaging with others, smiling, keeping an open mind and being ready for anything. Vacations are good for all of us. Play is IMPORTANT! We need to take breaks and regroup. I deserve that. I also deserve to have fun and good times. I deserve good memories. (I also need to learn how to save money better but that’s another blog post.)
  • Playtime includes being creative. The mess that I call 2019 left me feeling artistically uninspired. I started and stopped a lot of projects including an oil painting and ukele lessons. While on the ship, I spent hours doing my make-up, experimenting with various shades and lots of glitter. I forgot how much fun it is to let my creative juices flow. I desperately need to get back to that, making my life colorful. Maybe I’ll finally start putting my music out…
  • Dancing is healing. Not only is it good for the body physically but there is something about constant movement that frees the soul. I never danced so much in my life in one single moment, even with all my ballet classes. My heart was so full with rhythm and music and made me realize that I need to get back on the barre. Dancing brings so much joy to my life and I need to shake it more often. My new daily goal is to spend a half hour each day dancing, whether its in my bedroom with my cat, Canela, cleaning my apartment or going out to a club (even if I’m by myself).
  • Costa Maya, Mexico

    There is magic in the world. Maybe there aren’t rabbits jumping out of top hats and disappearing magician assistants but there is something out there. I heard about manifesting your inner desires from a couple of people but honestly, I thought that was a bunch of hocus pocus. I’ve turned around. While I don’t know everything about manifestation, I did learn that when you positively put your intentions out there, things can happen. AMAZING things and I have the proof (and a fun story that I will only share with close friends). My friend, David, also read me my past, present and future cards of his Tarot deck, It was spooky to see what each card revealed and what qualities I bring forth, such as being a nurturer (SO TRUE! I’m the “mom” of my friend group.) but also letting fear and negativity rule my life. I used to take information like that with a grain of salt but I’m now looking at it differently and am figuring out how to apply it to my daily routine.

  • And finally, a note to myself: start brushing up on your Spanish. I will be going to Puerto Rico within the next couple of months (Cristian, I will be taking up your offer!). I’m manifesting that desire and goal now and will make it happen.

I’m incredibly grateful for this experience that I had. I feel like this trip has pointed the start of my new year and new decade in a more positive, loving and purposeful direction. Remember that you deserve some inspiration and fun in your life, dear reader, and I hope to see you next year on Groove Cruise 2021.