Up and Down

I’ve struggled with my appearance most of my life.

Since I have full-body eczema, I have always been insecure about my skin. Since the skin covers the body, there was a lot to feel embarrassed about. And from there, on the long list of things I didn’t like about myself, I couldn’t help stress about my weight.

When I was in elementary school, I was always on the heavier side. Our family called me and your uncle tabachoy or tabachingching and poked “fun” at us, but no matter how many times you say “It’s just a joke” that doesn’t stop the comments from hurting. No level of sarcasm can hide the fact that it’s how they really saw us.

Near the end of middle school and towards the beginning of high school, I dropped a lot of weight. My skin was still a cause for concern, but at least I wasn’t chubby with a bowl cut anymore. I was praised for my newly lightened physique, and it made me feel good.

I didn’t get that way healthily though. I didn’t exercise. I wasn’t eating right. In fact I was barely eating at all.

That was the point in my life when my depression was really starting to kick in. I didn’t want to do anything but stay in bed all day. I would sleep 12 hours if I could. I’d skip breakfast every day, eat a meager lunch, and an average dinner. The weight dropped because of that, and nothing else.

At that point in my life, I was 120 pounds.

Late in my sophomore year in high school, I had gained a lot more friends. I had more energy, I wanted to go out, I was happier. My sleeping (and eating) schedule had regained a sense of normalcy, and I had jumped to 135 pounds. But because of my bigger build, it didn’t show all that much.

I don’t like to admit this, but in junior year the only way I had noticed my weight was on the rise was because of my Naruto headband. In freshman year I would wear it around my waist almost every day, but near the end of high school it wouldn’t fit anymore. I’m a huge loser lmao.

So late into my senior year my weight had only risen again, and I was around 145. So I guess writing it out, it seems I had gained about 10 pounds a year. Go figure.

I tried to be healthy and exercise, but it wasn’t so easy and I wasn’t so motivated. So that didn’t last long.

Then enter my freshman year of college. I was 160 pounds, because I had spent the summer before going out and saying goodbye to friends left and right.

Because the campus had 3 gyms nearby, it was super convenient for me to workout whenever I got bored. I didn’t like to stay in my dorm room so often so I used the gym as an excuse, plus I made friends that motivated me (for a little while at least). So after the first semester, I was back to 150 pounds.

But then, in the middle of my second semester, I got pregnant with you.

Obviously I wasn’t so keen on watching my figure.

Long story short, I was roughly 185 pounds at the end of my pregnancy. But after you came out, I was only at about 170 again. I thought, ONLY 15?!

The stress of taking care of a newborn baby didn’t make me want to exercise. Just the opposite, all I did was stress eat and laze around with you.

There were periods of time where I would try to create an exercise routine, but nothing stuck, so I would give up really easily.

3 months ago, I was 175 pounds. I was always tired, I was still wearing my maternity clothes, and every little action made me stop to catch my breath. I could feel how unhealthy I had become, and there was nothing more embarrassing for me. To want to raise you to be a fit and health-conscious individual but not lead by example?

I changed the way I was eating, and I worked really hard to establish a routine exercise schedule. So now, I’m 155 pounds, and I feel really proud of myself. I hope and pray I’ll be able to keep it up.

It felt bad to wear pregnancy clothes, over 2 years after giving birth. It felt bad to not be able to carry you because I got tired too easily. It felt bad to not be able to play with you because I just wanted to eat and nap all the time.

My energy is returning, and though I still have depressive episodes where I don’t think I can even get out of bed, I can feel myself getting better, even just a bit.

The point I want to make from this is that, I was never so focused on fixing my appearance until I made the decision to do it for myself. I wasn’t happy being thin for the compliments. I would never have considered dieting just to look good.

I started dieting because I wanted to feel good about myself, and I wanted to be healthy.

I used to worry a lot about what people thought, and it really plagued me. But, even when I was at my heaviest, I still slapped on lipstick and a crop top because I loved my body.

I don’t even know if I’m making sense anymore because I’m typing this past midnight and I’m tired.

But throughout my entire roller coaster of a weight journey, every pound lost or gained taught me something about loving and accepting myself. Even if I were 200 pounds right now, I would still love what I saw in the mirror.

So when you’re old enough to feel insecure, remember to treat your body kindly.

If you want to diet, do it for yourself.

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She Can(‘t) Do It All!

I’m sorry sorry sorry that it has taken me forever to write another post. I always feel a little nervous when I write a blog post to be honest. Because I can’t help but wonder how old you’ll be when you finally read them, or what your personality will be like, or if you’ll really care what I’ve written out.

To tell you the truth, one of the reasons I started this blog is because I wanted to find a way to leave some of my thoughts with you in case I’m not around to tell you about them later.

I’ve said it before and I’m not trying to use it as an excuse but I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Since the start of this new year I’ve sat down and started maybe 2 or 3 different blog posts, but my head was always too cloudy to get down coherent thoughts so I couldn’t finish any of them. As I’m typing now I’m praying that this one will find it’s way to completion.

But anyways, to get to the subject matter of this post, you were born when I was 19. Society has this notion that we respect young moms because they have to work 10 times harder than everyone else. There’s this notion that not just young moms but all moms have to be “supermoms” nowadays — the mom who works a regular job, takes care of the kids, keeps house, and still finds time to be a functioning member of society. Don’t get me wrong, these women (and all women in general of course) are incredible and deserve all the props and respect they get because doing all of those things is hard.

And that’s why I hate it. I hate when people see the load I bear and go, “Wow, you’re incredible you can withstand so much!! I could never do that ha ha ha I guess you have mom stamina.”

Lemme tell you, at the beginning of this year I was working 2 part time jobs, suffering through a full load of classes, and coming home everyday to a rambunctious 2 year old (that’s you). And when people asked me what I was up to I would tell them, and they would look at me with a sense of awe and pity. Now I’m down to 1 job but the rest holds true, but the stress of it all hasn’t reduced in the slightest.

I’m suffering. I’m really, truly suffering. Some nights I can’t sleep because the anticipated stress of the next day keeps me awake. I scratch my skin off and pull my hair and debate the positives of the sweet release of death.

When I put it like that it sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Suicide would not be easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing to do because I haven’t yet succeeded! To think, people say, “That’s the easy way out.” That’s how you can tell who has no idea what you’re going through, or what you’re thinking. They think it’s easy!

Of course of course of course it’s not easy. It takes so much thought and effort and heartache and suffering. And then people tell you, “Think of all the people you would be leaving behind! How would they feel?” If suicide was so selfish, why do people always make it about them when I try to talk about it? Why is my life so important that your feelings are prioritized above mine?

I would miss you so much.

But I love you.

Think of your kid.

I’ve heard those countless times. I already know that! Why do you think I’m still here? You know what I rarely hear?

Your life is worth living.

Take care of yourself, let me help you, don’t push yourself to the point of no return.

Live because your life has meaning and if you don’t see that now let’s work at it until you do.

I want to completely expose myself when it comes to these feelings because it is so discouraged. I want you to know that these feelings are horrible and valid and I’ve been there and I will listen to you and do whatever I can to help you.

Ember, you are my angel. You are my everything. It terrifies me to this day that you might end up just like me. I have hope that you won’t because right now you are a bright, laughing, happy baby, but of course things change. I just want you to know that whatever you’re feeling, you’re safe with me.

I feel like nowadays, pressure starts younger and younger. People have been asking me if you’re going to enroll in preschool yet and I say Preschool? She’s only 2! For the love of God almighty, let my 2 year old be 2. I don’t care if she’ll be “behind” with the times or what, I’m not putting an infant in school. And I’ve read studies that show the detrimental mental effects putting a kid in school too early causes.

Don’t let school get you down. Don’t let this messed up system take away your love for learning like it did for me.

Don’t let friends get you down. People that pressure you so much that you can hardly stand to be with them aren’t friends, they’re toxic. And it took me a long time to learn that.

Don’t let family get you down. Sometimes you need to be alone, sometimes you hear things you don’t want to. It’s to your discretion what you listen to and what you don’t.

Don’t let society get you down. It will, because humans are horrible and all you’ll see on the news is terror after terror, but you must block it out. You block it out, or you do something. We can rise up together.

There are so, so, so many things that can get you down and put pressure on you that will make you feel like there is no other way. I still feel like that all the time. But you just have to keep cutting things out of your life until you’re left with what you need.

That sounds like an escape, and it might be, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

These days people have to get straight A’s, they have to do extracurricular activities, stay stylish, be social, work harder than everyone else, they have to have hobbies, a relationship, stay current with shows and trends, be successful and happy.

But you can’t do it all. No one can. There’s this notion that everyone is doing all of those things, but in reality everyone is barely holding it together.

If you ever feel like you can’t handle the load that life has placed on your shoulders, just tell me and I’ll help you unpack it all. Don’t ever let the load crush you. Sometimes I feel like I can’t stand the weight anymore, but I’m still here. And I’ll try to be here as long as you need me.

Just Let Me Know

Hey Ember, fun fact, I am currently a young adult. You are almost 2 years old. I like to think that because of our not extremely significant age gap that I can keep up with what the cool kids are doing, but of course I’m sure all parents think that.

So last night was one of my best friend’s 21st birthdays. I definitely monitored some alcohol intake and made sure everyone got home safely. His parents knew what was up, my parents knew what was up. Everyone was aware of proper alcohol consumption intake safety guidelines. It was a fun yet responsible evening.

I’m not sure what kind of things you’ll be into when you’re a teenager, but I think I have general knowledge of all the bases. And what I don’t know, I’ll just friggin look up.

I know firsthand that the last thing a lot of teenagers want to do is talk to their parents about what’s going on in their lives. I know that you’re gonna be doing some things you think or know that I don’t want you to do.

But I’m telling you right now, nothing you could do would ever make me reject you. You could never piss me off so bad that I’d do anything drastic. You’ll never be kicked out of the house, you’ll never get cut off, me and your dad will always be there for you.

But please please please, just tell me what you’re doing.

If you’re only 14 and you’re trying to drink, tell me. If you think about smoking, tell me. If you get your hands on weed, tell me. If you want to start having sex, tell me. Just let me know. If you’re about to get a tattoo or piercing, let me know. You don’t even have to go into detail about anything, just let me know. I swear to you, ask anyone and they can tell you how laid back I am about a lot of things.

Nothing makes me more paranoid than thinking you’re doing (potentially dangerous) things behind my back. I don’t care how uncomfortable a talk we might be in for. Of course I’ll probably lecture you a little bit, but that’s because I’m your mother.

In my time, I’ve disappointed my parents a lot. Regrettably. Unintentionally. But I did. I kept a lot of secrets, and I’ve realized that not talking to them probably made things a lot worse. It’s already too late for a lot of things, but I’m starting to talk to them more and it’s helped.

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things. Me and your uncle and our cousins, there were just a lot of things our parents just barred us from for various reasons. So we would always say to each other, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” just to get through our teen years.

I don’t want you to ask me for forgiveness for anything. I want you to tell me about it beforehand so that you won’t have to. I swear, no matter what it is you may do or want to do, I’ll understand. We’ll talk about it. I’ll help when I can. And I swear to you now that if you tell me things beforehand, I won’t get mad. I might take a moment or two to calm down and think about it, but I’ll do my absolute best not to raise my voice at you.

I respect your autonomy, and I’ll talk to you reasonably.

You know, my parents were actually the last people to find out that I was pregnant with you. Because I was scared. I thought the only people I could talk to were the ones my own age. I knew my parents would yell (and they certainly did) and just thinking about that prevented me from saying anything to them until the very last minute. They were the last to hear a number of things actually, because I would have rather sprung things on them than have them yell at me beforehand.

I can’t even imagine that. It definitely breaks my heart thinking about how I’ve broken theirs on several occasions, but there’s nothing I can do about the past. I can only speak up moving forward.

A lot of people my age keep secrets. I don’t know how old you are, I don’t know if you’re 10 or 15 or 20 when you read this, but even if you’re only 4 I know you’ve still got a secret from me. You’re not even 2 yet and you lie to me about when you poop because you don’t want me to change your diaper.

I don’t care if you took an extra cookie from the cookie jar, spilled water on my laptop, or got pregnant. Just for Christ’s sake, tell me about it.

No matter what it is, I’ll be there for you. I’ll listen to you. Give me as much detail as you want, or as much detail is necessary for us to talk about it.

Even if you come to me and say you want to vote Republican, I’ll talk to you with a level voice. I swear it. Joking aside, I need to know what’s going on in your life so that I know you’re okay. So that I know that if there’s a potential for danger, I know about it and I’ll do something about it. Don’t get me wrong, just because I want to talk about it and hear you out doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. But I know that I can’t stop you from doing certain things, so I’d rather know about it than have you keep me in the dark.

A lot of parents say they want to be their kid’s parent and friend. And I really do. But let’s talk to each other and set the limits.

Just talk to me. Trust me, and I’ll trust you.

Work and Happiness

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in forever. I constantly have writing ideas running through my mind, but I can never seem to find a moment to sit down and write them. And it’s not that I don’t have any time, I just can’t write when I lack inspiration and the right mood.

Ember, I don’t know how old you’ll be when you start to read these. The reason I write public blog posts in the fashion of letters to you is because all these messages are for you. Right now you are just a few weeks away from being 2 years old, and the things I want to tell you well, you just don’t understand. You barely understand English, let alone abstract concepts of work and life satisfaction.

Something I grew up hearing all the time is that you need to love what you do. And by “do”, I mean career-wise. You need to love your work. You need to be happy with the gear you chose to spin on in this capitalist machine. But the thing is, that’s just not plausible. There are millions of people all over the world, and it’s not realistic to absolutely love what you do.

The fact is, some people need to just do what they can to survive. Now I’m not saying you will hate it, no no you should at least like what you do. At the very least tolerate it. But it’s a job. Not everyone can work in a profession where their heart is.

Now if you can, then that’s awesome and that’s definitely the goal.

I guess what prompted me to write this to begin with is that last night I spent 7 hours studying for an Economics exam. I’m not even an economics major. I don’t get economics at all, I straight up hate the subject, doesn’t make sense to me, as far as I can tell it’s not relevant to what I want to do in the future. But I have to take this class to graduate.

When I graduate I’ll have a marketing degree. I wasn’t a little 4 year old who dreamed of growing up to be a marketing major. I didn’t hope and wish with all my heart to work in advertising and marketing.

I wanted to be a singer. An artist. Maybe an actor, but that was never going to work out.

Actually, before I was a marketing major, I was a psychology major. I wanted to be a therapist and help people. But after you were born I switched because I needed a major that would let me earn money faster so I can take care of you.

That’s the thing. I don’t dislike marketing, but I didn’t dream of it. I don’t get butterflies in my stomach thinking one day I’ll wake up and head to my marketing-related job. But I’m good at it (in school so far at least. And I like it well enough. It can be fun at times, and it allows creativity. It plays on my strengths and at the same time will let me earn a comfortable living.

But work isn’t all we do.

At the end of the work day we need hobbies. We still need to do the things we’re passionate about.

Drawing, singing, dancing. Running, cooking, playing sports. The things we care about don’t need to be our careers, but they still need to be a part of our lives.

I don’t know if you’ll be old enough to understand what I’m talking about when you read this. But I want you to know that I’ll always support you.

If you can get the job of your dreams, go for it. Work as hard as you can to get there, and I’ll help you. But if you want an “ordinary” job, that’s okay too. Aim high, but don’t be sad if you end up somewhere you didn’t expect.

I feel like this message isn’t what parents are supposed to tell their kids. I feel like I should be telling you you can do anything, that no job is unattainable, that if you work hard enough you can accomplish everything.

And I will say those things, and I will mean them from the bottom of my heart.

But with where I am in my life, I just know that sometimes you need to settle for less than your dream. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean you won’t be happy.

I’m not where I pictured I would turn out in life, but I’m happy.

No Sick Days

I had a HORRIBLE fever for the longest time. It started about 11 days ago, and it was the worst I’ve felt since I had mono like 4 years ago. High fever that didn’t break for almost 7 days, a migraine that absolutely would not go away, muscle aches that left me bed-ridden, and a cough that made me feel like my ribs were going to crack.

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I kept a medical mask on like literally 24/7.

Shortness of breath. High fever. You name it, I had it. I was so sure it was the flu, but no, just pneumonia.

As a kid, I know I would have loved being that dreadfully ill if it meant not going to school. But of course, adults have it much harder.

I was not only freaking out about all the school work I would be missing out on, but it was stressful just thinking of how I would take care of Ember when I could barely take care of myself. I could barely carry my water bottle without my arm wanting to fall off, so how could I carry a 30 pound squirmy baby?

Thankfully I had the help of my family and of course my baby daddy, but it wasn’t enough. And by that, I mean a mother’s work is never satisfied.

Wearing the surgical mask 24/7 made me realize how much time I spend with her. I couldn’t give her kisses, couldn’t blow on her belly to make her laugh. I couldn’t eat the pretend food she made me, or share my food with her. I couldn’t bite her toes or let her feed me her leftovers, and I’d wear it in my sleep in case she might try to wake me up with good-morning-kisses.

Even though the mere act of standing up made me want to pass out, I kept finding myself automatically getting up and peeking into the other room just to see how Ember was doing. All I wanted to do was sleep, but when she wasn’t near me I felt anxious. I really had to go almost an entire week spending virtually no time with her out of fear of her getting sick too, and I really missed her even though most of the time she was just downstairs.

The thing is that it’s one thing to have help watching your kid. Everyone needs a sitter from time to time. But, just not all the time. I barely got to see Ember all week and it made me so depressed. It just wasn’t noticeable because I was dying of lung infection.

Going on Day 11 and I just finished my round of antibiotics. My cough is virtually gone and I haven’t had a fever in 4 days. I’m hoping I’ll be back at full strength by the end of the week, so I can say goodbye to the mask and play with my sweet baby again.

The Importance of Faking It

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I thought for a while on what I wanted to write about today. I considered writing about your dad and I’s romantic history — a full telling of the Z & B  story. But thought, nah. Then I started drafting out something on the difference between what happens when passionate love turns into companionate love. But thought, nah, you could just google that. Maybe the difference between family and friends and romantic affection? The definition of love and what it means to me?

I’m rambling now. Anyways, I finally decided to make this post on probably one of the most important kinds of love: self-love. This is something you should develop strongly and fiercely at a young age — we can discuss those other loves another time.

So as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I grew up with an unmentionable amount of self-esteem issues. People told me I was ugly, and I believed them. I let those words consume me. I’d stay up late nights crying. I hated myself. I wore clothes to hide my skin and always kept hair in front of my face to hide myself.

With my full-body eczema, I felt hideous. Being a lil chubby, I had a horrible body image. I thought nothing about myself looked good, and it tortured me. There is so much pressure on young girls to look good, and I felt the entirety of that weight constantly pushing down on me.

When I was finally old enough, those thoughts of self-hate turned very, very destructive. I think from middle school to freshman year of college, suicide would cross my mind almost daily. Some days would be worse than others, and I’ve made my share of threats and attempts. I saw nothing good in myself. The negativity I felt towards myself was not just about looks, it spread to doubt in my abilities and everything. I felt like a wholly useless being better left for dead.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with you that something in me clicked. It wasn’t until I found out I was having a daughter that I summoned all the emotional strength I had to think positively and work to be a better role model. I was not about to let you grow up with a mother who would teach you self-hate.

Kids learn from their parents. That’s just a fact of life. There’s some weird trend where people take turns pointing out their insecurities and it’s just… awful. Why can’t a group of friends get together and sit around talking about how gorgeous everyone is? Why do we sit around and talk about our weight issues? Our skin problems? Our jealousy over what other people have? Why don’t we relish in our own beauty?

Now, depression does not just go away with positive thinking. There are still moments where I sink to scary, dark levels and those bad thoughts come back. But I’m trying to fight them. I’m trying. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not, but I’m trying.

Now for the name of this post. I did a lot of faking it.

I walk around talking big. I talk about how gorgeous I am. I talk about how my makeup is perfect, my cute chubby belly is perfect, my thick legs are perfect, my short green hair is perfect. At first it was sarcasm, but it turned into something else. I talk about how I’m beautiful, I talk about how smart and creative and funny and overall good I am. And soon, somewhere in all that talk, it stopped being sarcasm. I believed it. I do believe it.

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT.

That certainly doesn’t apply to every aspect in life, but in this case it does.

I want to fill you with so much confidence that no one can ever knock you down. If you believe in yourself, everyone else will. If you believe in yourself, there’s nothing you can’t do. If you believe in yourself, you’ll never pine for anyone else because when you’re alone you won’t feel lonely. That might not make a lot of sense now but it will.

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Ember’s second Valentine’s Day!

Ember, you are only 1 but you are already so smart and kind and funny and friendly and beautiful and strong. All and none of those words define you. It’s up to you to decide who you’re going to be in this world, but you’ll never reach that potential if you don’t have confidence in yourself.

A lot of people say not to make your child cocky because they’ll be obnoxious in school. Well, to those people I say, worry about your own kid.

There’s a difference between a kid saying “I’m so smart” versus saying “I’m the smartest one here”. There’s self-love and there’s arrogance.

The thing is that I would much rather teach Ember modesty than teach her to stop hating herself. Because self-hate is something very difficult to unlearn. I’ll show Ember through example how to love yourself, and I hope that fierceness will transfer over and she’ll instill unbridled confidence and power in her friends too. Self-love is a movement that needs to catch fire and my baby will be the first of many flames.

My parting words are this:

Love yourself. If you don’t, fake it till it’s true.

Mother(‘s) Land

Ember, we may live in America, and you may have your daddy’s white skin and curly brown hair, but never forget that Filipino blood is coursing through your veins.

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3 STARS AND A SUN.

So, I guess to start, I’ll explain what brought me to write this. I’ve just started my second semester at my new school, and I’m taking a class called Black Protest In the Atlantic. First off, this class is honestly so amazing like I could listen to this professor preach for hours and not get tired of hearing it.

Anyways, today we discussed how people culturally identify themselves. Because of the slave trade, Africans were brought to America. This whole identity mess begins with generations not knowing their roots. They don’t know where in Africa they come from, they have a Master’s last name, so for all intents and purposes they are just American. Some young black individuals prefer to just refer to themselves as Black Americans instead of African-Americans because they feel they have no roots to Africa.

I could go on about that specific topic, but I’m not trying to give you a history lesson or anything like that right now.

Here’s what I’m trying to get at.

I am pure Filipino. I love my tan skin, my dark hair, my small nose. I love my Filipino family, I eat Filipino food, I watch Filipino game shows with my cousins and grandma. I love meeting other Filipinos and talking about the things that connect us.

But at the same time, I have never felt Filipino enough.

I lived there when I was a baby, and have only visited twice since coming to America. I understand enough of the language, but can’t speak it. My tongue wasn’t trained to pronounce the words the way they were meant to be spoken, and I get embarrassed trying sometimes. I don’t know how to cook anything (except maybe turon). I don’t know much about what the culture is like over there besides what I’ve picked up from friends and family.

Even though my family moved here, we don’t call it home. When someone goes back to visit the Philippines, they don’t say, “I’m going on vacation”. They say, “I’m going home.”

The Philippines is my motherland. It’s where I came from. And I’ve always felt this sense of disconnect about who I am and where I came from. Most of my family lives there, but we’re not close. We don’t talk. One day when my parents are no longer around, I fear I’ll lose touch with who my family is and the Philippines will turn into a vacation spot instead of the place where I was born.

I’m always full of a deep sadness when I think about how to raise you to be more Filipino. In this society, especially since you are mixed, I feel like your Filipino identity could be easily washed away. Since I’m not the most pinoy person around, I have this strange sense of not being qualified to teach you how to embrace this culture. But I’ll definitely do my best.

If you have questions about your heritage, ask. If I don’t know the answer, we’ll learn together.