#LoveLetterToThePassingYear

Dear 2020,

You were a year of calm. Okay, it was the year of absolute utter bullshit but it’s the year that I became calm. Well, calmer.

My mental health was something that I took seriously this year. I became really conscious. I paid close attention to my thoughts, to the words that came out of my mouth, to what I put in my body, to the actions and people that were lifting me up and putting me down, to how much movement I was doing every day, to the things and moments that made me feel truly happy and alive…

Back in February, I just discovered this song and have listened to it at least ten times a day since. One of Nao’s lyric went like this: “I wish that perfect was enough for my own heart.” It got me thinking about perfection and how much I self-sabotaged demanding perfection all the time. I think back on something my friend Lisa once said- don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Yes, I didn’t get the “dream” job that I wanted but I was able to work and buy the things that I needed (I got new glasses!). I didn’t find my perfect Mr. Right but I met some really cool and kind people. I found my hobbies again, as well as my tribe here in Austin, after being lost for such a long time. I also got more into biking, finally finished a painting and really celebrated my Puerto Rican background this year- three things that I’m really proud of. I feel good.

I learned a lot. I learned what I really wanted out of my life: the type of career I wanted, the relationship that I desire and deserve, the kind of lifestyle that I wanted to live. I may not have an exact five year plan but I finally defined my goals. I learned how to breaks- I took a social media break over the summer which was a godsend. I learned what triggers my depression- mostly finances but surprisingly, not loneliness as I once thought it did. I learned that I have a voice in my relationships and with the world around me. I learned that our country, though incredibly divided, will stand for what’s right. Black Lives will ALWAYS Matter and I’m hopeful about the state of our country. I do believe that we are slowly healing from the hate, as well as COVID-19.

In short, we keep fighting. We are intrepid. We carry on.

To end on a positive note (because the world needs more positivity), I hope we take the lessons that we learned from you, 2020, and keep in our hearts. I hope we continue to keep each other safe and let everything know that they’re loved.

Thanks for the memories. You were a dumpster fire of a year but I loved you, Andrea

#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?

#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?

#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?

#TheOtherCWord

Listen to Homer, Marge!

With all the Coronavirus news, we seemed to miss another C word: Census.

April 1st was National Census Day, the day that highlighted the importance of the US Census. Every ten years, the Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (including Puerto Rico) and uses that information to help disperse money (roughly $650 billion) at the federal level to the community for vital assets like public schools, food stamps and roads. It also determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress. The census is required by the Constitution, meaning it’s required by law to be filled out and submitted in a timely fashion. Census representatives also count local homeless populations (they matter, too!). If you refuse to fill it out, there could be a hefty fine coming your way.

The questions on the Census are pretty basic (i.e. how many are in your household, the genders living in the household, dates of birth, race and ethnicity questions- whether or not you’re of Hispanic origin, how is everyone in the household related, etc.). The Census will never ask you for your Social Security number, money or donations and your bank or credit card account numbers. Last year, the Trump Administration recommended adding a citizenship question on the Census which would ask takers if they were a US citizen or not. Immigration rights advocates were concerned about that question as it could possibly out illegal immigrants and make them more vulernable to being caught and deported. The question never made it on to the 2020 Census- a federal judge signed an order last year permanently blocking it (phew!)

Last month, homes across the United States began receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census online. If you were not to complete the Census questionnaire online by the end of April, representatives from the US Census will stop at your front door to count your the residents in your home. With the rise of COVID-19, the Census extended the deadline but lawmakers are still trying to determine how to safety send Census representative to the homes that don’t fill out either the physical or online form.

Everyone living in the United States is supposed to be counted by the census, whether they’re citizens or not. My boyfriend, Amit, and I had a pretty lengthy discussion about the Census and his fear about it. He is from India. He’s been in the United States for eight years and filled out the Census for the first time this year. He was concerned about giving the US government a bunch of his personal information (including his Visa status). I heard from other friends, people of color, who are afraid to fill it out. Immigration aside, one friend is Arab-American and is afraid that if he disclosed his address, he might be watched by the government.

I understand the fear and lack of trust of the Census. Census information is supposed to be confidential information. If you look back in history, that always hasn’t been the truth (check out of the 1966 Freedom of Information Act and it’s affect on the Census). But it is important. In 2010, the lowest response rates were in communities of color, neighborhoods that often need the most federal assistance. We need an accurate Census count and this is a way to let your voice be heard.

Have you filled out your part for the US Census, dear reader?

#AnxietyInTheTimeOfCoronavirus


Despite the world being on fire, my anxiety levels have been surprisingly low. It’s truthfully refreshing to see the world riding the same anxiety wave that I’m usually on.  I am terrified that when things get back to “normal,” I’m going to sink back into depression, continue to have no luck job hunting and struggle financially.

But there are things that have change in my since pre-Coronavirus: I’m in a great relationship. I started applying for government positions and internships, and feel like I will hear back about them soon. The student loan payment freeze is actually beneficial to my credit score and I’ve been spending more time outside, wandering around while catching up on missed podcasts and getting ample amounts of sun. I’m not alone. I have a roof over my head. I have food. I have money (at the moment). I’m not sick. My loved ones are not sick. I’m doing good- and no matter what happens, everything is going to be okay (maybe just boring for a while). There is nothing to worry about, right?

For the times that I notice my anxiety is peaking, I go through my Burning Man checklist for mental wellness: Did I eat? Did I drink enough water? Have I gotten any exercise? Enough sun? Too much sun? Have I rested? Talked to someone about my feelings? I also started focusing on the things that I can control- the food and drink I’m putting into my body, the amount of exercise I do daily, how much social media and news briefs I consume.

I also focus on living in the moment, day-by-day. Who knows what the future holds, whether it’s a few hours from now or a few months away. I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself and those around me by constantly washing my hands, wearing gloves, practicing social distancing and staying home when I don’t have to work. I have to admit, it’s hard especially when you’re someone who likes to hug. I miss my Sunday Social Rides around the east side of Austin. I’m lonely for my friends and the places that I used to frequent regularly. My life is not perfect but it is good.

To quote my favorite Oasis song, these are crazy days but they make me shine. How are you shining, dear reader? Are you scared about the present, about the future? What anxieties are you experiencing at this time? How are you staying positive? How can I support you? Remember that we’re all in this together and that I’m here for you, as well.

#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!)

#SisterInService

The beautiful cortado that I poured this morning

I have to admit that I’ve been a little elitist lately and this is my opportunity to not necessarily check my privilege but to change my perspective… Me and my boss at my new job were having a post-shift beer (shout out to Kristen!). We chatted about our customers, one woman in particular. She came in having a rough morning. I poured her a light roast and we chatted about music and the upcoming SXSW festival. After taking a few sips, she asked my name and told me that I made her morning better. Kristen overheard our conversation and complimented me. I shrugged it off but it got me thinking.

I used to work in advertising. I went to an office every day and sat a computer for eight hours. I liked my job and I was good at it (sometimes, I miss it). Since November of last year, I’ve been job hunting, hoping to find a similar office job. In the meantime, I’ve been working as a barista/waitress at a coffee shop in downtown Austin- and I love it. Back when I was in college, I used to tell myself that I was busting my balls to get a degree so I didn’t have to work in retail for the rest of my life (at the time, I worked at the campus bookstore in their clothing department). Customer service was something that I could fall back on but I wasn’t too make it my career. I needed to do something “bigger” and “better.” I come from a family of high achievers (one sister is a lawyer; the other an engineer) and have felt the stress to do something “great” with my career. Being a barista equates the working class/embarrassment/lower status and I need to strive beyond that…

I hate how the world tricks your mind like that- you need to go to college and get that desk job. You don’t spend this much time in college with this much student loan build up only to work at a coffee shop. Being a barista is not a career path. I say, why couldn’t it be? The world needs baristas and waitresses, and good ones at that who know their craft. I like making both coffee and someone’s day. I get complimented more about my positive demeanor and creativity behind the coffee counter than at any of my desk jobs. I like pouring latte art. Yeah, I get paid barely over minimum wage and I wish that I had insurance. The hours are long and sometimes, unforgiving. But I do alright with my tips. My customers and coworkers are cool. One of my customers offered to help me with my freelance taxes- for FREE. I have met so many “brothers and sisters” in the service industry and we take care of each other- I need to use both hands to count the places in Austin where I don’t pay for drinks nor an entrance fee.

I go back and forth about finding more “traditional work.” Perhaps in the long run, going back to advertising and marketing will look better on my resume. But I’m in a pretty good place right now. I’m happy with my job- that’s the first time I’ve said that in a long time. Who can say that anymore?

What do you think about customer service jobs, dear reader? (And what’s your favorite coffee drink?)

#Starfish

One day, a man ran along a beach littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore due to a recent storm. He came upon a little girl who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one. Puzzled, the man looked at the girl and asked what she was doing. Without looking up from her task, the little girl simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish. “The man chuckled aloud, “Sweetie, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?” The girl picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this parable this past week. Last year (which is weird to say since it’s only February), my friends were posting on social media photos of them now and ten years ago. I started thinking about who I was ten years ago and how much I quote-unquote glowed up. I was living in New Jersey then, working as an personal assistant and saving my money so I could move to New York City. I recently dropped out of college but dreamt of a big life for me. I saw the people that I worked with at the office. Some of my coworkers worked at that company for most of their adult life. I couldn’t understand why people chose that for themselves- there was a big world to explore and be a part of.

Me, the summer of 2010 in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I learned a lot since then- how to navigate the NYC subway system. How to properly flirt. How to build a resume and a website. I became a better writer. But I continued to have big dreams for myself. I always wanted something more- write for a massive magazine. Travel the world. Possibly save the world (in what way, I had no clue but I was determine to do it somehow). I kept thinking about to my former coworkers and telling myself, I don’t want to be like that. These days, I crave stability. I want the boring. I want to go to work, do a good job and come to my cat (or my future partner) and watch Netflix before turning into bed. While most of those big dreams I once had no longer feel achievable, a part of me still feels like I can save the world. I want to do and be more.

But what does one save the world? I’m not a billionaire who can donate a lot of money. I’m not Greta Thunberg. Sometimes, I wish that I had the brains and patience to go to medical school and become a doctor (I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I would make a great sex therapist). I do volunteer and protest on the micro-level. While I’m proud of my writing, it’s not appearing in “Vanity Fair,” getting read by millions. My life, despite all my adventures and the people I met, is pretty small. It’s not as big as I wanted to be and as of recently, I’m not okay with that.

But then, I am reminded of the starfish parable and something that a dear friend said to me. I met Elli when Elli was John. We dated for a little bit before Elli realized that she was transgender. I was (and still am) all about her transition. We spent hours talking about what it means to be a man and woman, societal pressures placed on gender and of course, having sex in a new body. Elli later told me that if it wasn’t for my love and acceptance, she wouldn’t have come out when she did. Elli is this wonderful spirit who shares her kindness and joy with so many others. When I think how I haven’t saved the world, if there was something that I could have done differently, I push those negative thoughts aside and think of Elli. There’s that one starfish swimming back to the ocean depths, happily dancing under the waves.

How have you saved the world, dear reader?