#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

#CuffingSeason

You said it, Marilyn.

It’s winter. It’s cuffing season. My social media feeds are filled with couples being cute and cozy, leaving us single people feeling lonely and unwanted. Usually, I’m one of those singles pinning away for someone special to spend the holiday season with but this year, I haven’t experienced that feeling. Maybe it was the last couple of months I spent dating and the heartbreak that came with it. Maybe I might be a little bitter, broken and bruised. But can I be enlightened, as well?

I wrote in my last post about my big plans to be single. I was finally going to do it! Get off the apps. Stop giving out my number. Etc. But then at the end of October, I was bored, lonely and horny and hopped back on Bumble. I met some great guys and had a couple flings that didn’t pan out for various reasons: we were not in the same place emotionally or in our life timeline. We were both playing games. I was ghosted a few times. It finally got to a point where I was so emotionally exhausted that I canceled a date a few hours before we were supposed to meet, explaining my truth: I just wasn’t dating place anymore (sorry, Jose).

I spent Christmas weekend thinking about what I learned about love this year- the love I have for myself; the kind of relationship I want to be in; new revelations about dating. I definitely know, more than ever, what I want in a partner and out of a relationship. I took a hard look at my dating and attachment styles ,and what my expectations are with meeting new people. A big part of my identity is tied to my dating history. My friends always ask me for dating advice, or who is latest dude that I’m seeing. Dating is as much a hobby for me as a low-key addiction. I do get buzzed when I match someone on Bumble. If I’m not getting “high” from it, dating then only adds a low-key anxiety to my life.

When you’re truly honest with yourself, you realize that you are an asshole sometimes and have developed a lot of bad habits. I know that I have with dating and being a girlfriend. I’ve had the wrong idea about love all along. I thought that being alone was the worst thing in the world. Growing up, I would listen to all cheesy 90s pop songs about falling for someone and how was the best thing in the world. It was the key to happiness; the end all, be all. That’s bullshit. This year, I found myself happier being single, doing my own thing. Although I really cared for the men I dated (especially for Amit), I feel lighter and more free being single.

My final breakup with Amit taught me a lot about the stigma the world sees when relationships end. I started seeing my “failed” relationships as end points- and that’s it. I’ve had a lot of successful relationships, ones that taught me a lot. I have a lot of good memories from them. I’ve been able to experience a lot. Because of those relationships, I know exactly what I want in a partner. I think people assume that breakups are sad and depressing (which they can be) but mine this year have been major pillars of growth. I found a part of my voice during my breakups.

There is still a lot of things that I need to work on with dating. My choice in men definitely says a lot about me as a person- I’ve been reevaluating the type of people that I’m flocking to and getting naked with. That goes for sex. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had partners that don’t care about my pleasure. Although I was eager to have sex and get them off, I felt like a human FleshLight to them. Life is too short for one-sided sex. My orgasm is important, too! If I’m expected to act like a porn star, I at least deserve kisses during and to be held for a while afterwards. I deserve to be savored and need to hold out for someone who will treat me that way.

I’m at the point where dating and relationships should be fun and stress-free. As much as I want to be partnered and am looking forward to one day being married and raising a family with someone, I’m happy being alone. I’ve been debating whether or not to take a break next year from dating and/or hopping on Reddit for a hook-up. I’m thinking about how much of a challenge this would be for me since I do get lonely pretty often. But being lonely and dealing with those feelings are only part of the dating experience. It’s all a learning lesson and I’m determine to be the best relationship student I can. Love can be troubling but through those trials when we grow.

How is your dating life, dear reader? What did you learn about love?

#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?

#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

#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?