#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?

#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?

#BadBunny

Music has been my salvation during my Coronavirus quarantine. I turned my kitchen into a makeshift ballet barre where I can get some daily stretching in. I’ve been blasting reggaeton, specifically Bad Bunny’s newest album, “YHLQMDLG” (“Yo hago lo que me da la gana” or “I do whatever I want”). I love the entire album and grew excited for the videos that would steam from each single. The latest release is “Yo Perreo Sola” (note that this is the second video for this song). I’m loving this video for it’s strong stance on harassment against women.

Bad Bunny appears throughout the video in body hugging outfits, makeup and painted nails, and breasts that revile my own. He sings and dances alone, just as the song’s title says, for all the women who simply want to dance alone and safely in the club. “I wrote it from the perspective of a woman,” Bad Bunny explained to Rolling Stone in a recent interview. I have been in the club when I’ve been danced upon by men who didn’t ask permission touch me, and am feeling this message- there is finally a man who gets it.

I was first introduced to Bad Bunny when he teamed up with Drake for the song, “Mia.” In that music video, Bunny rocked painted nails, a beauty enhancement that became one of his staple features. I love and respect that Bad Bunny has never been a fan of gender norms and uses his voice to protest corruption in his native Puerto Rico and support LGBT rights. I also appreciate his emotional vulnerability- some of his lyrics reveal his fight against depression and mental illness. Bad Bunny is championing a new version of masculinity and has this eager willingness to address many of the issues other rappers (both Latin and otherwise) seem to steer away from.

I’ve read a lot of angry Tweets about the many who vowed to stop listening to his music, disgusted with what they saw in the video, as well as those who say Bad Bunny using gay and transgender culture to only boost albums sales. I truly believe that Bad Bunny is taking advantage of his popularity to resignify the model of Latino machismo culture (aka toxic traditional masculinity) by changing the narrative and aesthetic in his music and his videos (come on- the man is a supporter of pubic hair!). He is doing want he wants and he is choosing to make the world a better and more understanding place.

Gracias por tu energía positiva, Bad Bunny. And thanks for reading, dear reader. If you need a pick-me-up (I think we all do these days), I highly recommend having your own solo dance party and rock out to “YHLQMDLG.”

#FriendshipAndDepression

One of my closest friends, Cece, is this incredible ball of sunshine. She is always cheery, motivated and ready to jump into action. Nothing seems to stress her out: not her job (and she works this incredibly demanding gig at Google). Not her relationships. Nor the world in general. We talk pretty regulatory- me, going on about depressing and lackluster topics and her, in her perky tone, about how great life was. She just didn’t see what I have to be sad/depressed/guilty about in my own life. Cece would tell me to “perk up” and “things would be better in the morning;” that I needed to look more on “the bright side” and just to be happy. I finally called Cece out on her positivity, telling her that while I knew that she had the best intentions, it’s okay to not be okay. My feelings were valid and that her constant positivity was toxic.  When you deny or avoid unpleasant emotions, you make them bigger.

Although what Cece said had some truths, it was her support I needed. I’ve always struggled with telling my loved ones what I need emotionally (space, snuggles, a good cry, whatever). The older I get, the less ashamed I am about my depression and more open I am about it. However, I still don’t want to burden everyone with my mental health issues. I have to remind myself first that people want to help. They love me and want to be there for me. I deserve their love and kindness.

How should others help? First, LISTEN. Let your friend know you’re there for them. Keep in mind that they may want to talk about what they feel and not need advice. You can’t rescue someone from depression nor fix the problem for them but validating their words can sometimes help. Being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. In the past, I thanked my friends (and vice versa) for telling me about their pain. I don’t tell them that I understand because everyone’e depression is different but I validate my love for them. If there was anything that I could do to make their life easier, I’d offer that help, as well- including finding additional support from a mental health professional.

But what if you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to help a friend? This tweet has been floating around Twitter for the last couple of days and has me wondering. Yes, it is extremely important to have boundaries in all relationships but if I received this from a friend, I would be incredibly hurt. What do you think, dear reader?

And thank you for reading this entry. How can I support you today?