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.

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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.

How I Named My Ember

YOU ARE 1 NOW!!! (Plus a few weeks).

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You in your birthday suit! Get it? Because it was your birthday. And you’re naked. Hilarious.

Sorry I haven’t written anything in about 2 months, but between you and school and etc I’ve been incredibly busy. I know I say this a lot, but I really will try to write more here. Even if it’s just once a month.

I like to think of this blog as my way of talking to you, Ember, in like 10-15 years down the road. To let you know how things were.

Right now you are 1 year and 2 weeks old. You can:

  • Walk
  • Play peekaboo proficiently
  • Sing (your favorite songs are Johny Johny, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and Elmo’s World)
  • Dance (mostly just shimmying)
  • Eat regular foods (you like eggs and french fries, but mostly cookies)
  • Give kisses (mostly just biting my face)
  • and sort of talk! (you mostly just say “clap” and then do it, but you can also say “hi” and “buh bye” and a few other select words. You can quack, but that’s not really a word.)

You have curly brown hair like your dad. You’re paler than me but darker than him. You’ve got his square face. You have my small nose but it looks like it’s getting pointy like his. You have his eyebrows but my eyes. Smile is kind of up for grabs, but I say it looks like mine. You look so much like both of us that no one can tell who you take after more (kind of like North West tbh).

You are so smart and lovely and happy and I’m so proud of you everyday!

Anyways, what I wanted to talk about today is your namesake. A lot of people (pretty much everyone) has asked about how I chose your name, Ember Nadine. I keep giving short sort-of explanations because there was A LOT that went into it, so here’s the full story.

It was a long process. Actually for the duration of my pregnancy, I had my heart set on naming you Gwendolyn, but your dad hated that name. Your dad wanted to name you either Claire or Autumn, but I wasn’t really feeling those names. I also sort of wanted to name you Hinata after one of my favorite anime characters, but pretty much everyone shut me down on that one (they’re no fun). But since it was largely my choice (since I was doing all the heavy lifting), you were almost Gwen Hina D-J.

Now, here is where the story gets longer. I have another blog, that I started back in middle school when I got very depressed, and my username was Ember. I just liked that word. It was calming to me, it was a soft light in a dark place to make me feel better. Writing on that blog helped me release feelings that needed to get out. But I really didn’t think to name you after that for a long time.

I didn’t even consider naming you Ember until by fate I saw Danny Phantom (an old cartoon) on TV. Now, don’t hate me, but there was a villain named Ember. I honestly for the life of me can’t remember if I got the username Ember for my old blog from this show, but that’s a possibility. If it helps, she has a really awesome catchy theme song.

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Here she is, your name inspiration. Ember McLain. At least she’s really cool-looking though.

The most memorable lyrics of her theme song are, “Ember, so warm and tender. You will remember my name.”

And I loved that. You are amazing. You are affectionate and loving and already so empathetic. You will be remembered for amazing things.

That song was definitely a push in the right direction for naming you. Here was the final thing that made me choose your name.

There was a slam-poem called “To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter” which always makes me cry a little. It’s a man talking about how much he cherishes his daughter. Good stuff. At one point, he goes on a rant about how his daughter must always be respected and how he has raised her to be strong, and he ends the stanza with this line:

“You can’t make fire feel afraid.”

That line spoke volumes to me and sent shivers down my spine. It’s totally getting tattooed on me in the future. That was when I put the pieces together. (Remember? Ember. Fire –> Ember. #Yaaaas)

One day I was at my friend’s house, and this was when I was near the end of my second trimester with you. We were painting this little shelf for you (hopefully when you’re reading this you’ll still have it) and I said I wanted to paint your name on the side. My friend said, “Are you sure? You don’t seem very solid about her name.” And at the time it’s true I was a little shaky, but I could feel something. I painted the name “Ember Nadine” and I just knew it was right.

Oh right, about your middle name. My birth name was Maria Bianca Nadine C-D. But when I was I think just entering high school, your grandma had it legally cut down to just Bianca C-D. So I gave you my middle name that I lost, because I think that it’s a beautiful name. It means “princess”, and that’s what you are to me.

If Ember = fire and Nadine = princess, does that make you Flame Princess?

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Flame Princess, another character from a cartoon (Flame Princess) I used to watch. I swear I didn’t name you after cartoons on purpose that was purely happenstance.

So Ember, that’s the full story of how I named you. If one day you choose to change your name, that’s fine by me. But I hope you love your name, because I do.

Fight or Flight

One thing I’ve learned in several different classes is that humans have this instinct known as “fight or flight”, which means that when we face a struggle we must choose to either fight it or run away.

Ember, you are just over 10 months old now and you are starting to walk! I am so proud of you! You were crawling around 7 and 8 months, and now you are up on two feet!

Okay this is a really bad quality picture of you standing up by yourself but you did it and I'm proud!

Okay this is a really bad quality picture of you standing up by yourself but you did it and I’m proud!

I guess I’m not writing in a very coherent order right now, but I’ll try to explain what fight or flight has to do with this post.

So I recently started school again after a year of a few online courses. The thing is, it’s not the classes that are bringing me down, it’s my inability to socialize.

Coming in, I had this image in my head that I could be more outgoing and I could socialize and talk to people and join clubs and make lots of new friends. I thought I could be different than who I’ve always been, but it’s hard. My social anxiety takes a huge toll on me, and I’ve almost been reduced to tears several times already, and we haven’t even started the third week of school.

On the first week, I went to the first meeting of the Filipino club. Because hey, I’m Filipino, sounded like a good place to start. I walk in, see the room is jam-packed and nearly overflowing, and I freeze. Right in the middle of the room. I look around, desperately trying to get my legs to move. Desperately trying to think of something to say, for someone to say something to. I stand there for at least 5 minutes (though it felt like 5 hours), frozen, wanting to leave and go home and cry at my own weakness.

But, sure enough, I find my way to a table of girls and introduce myself. My heart is racing and I feel like passing out, but I do it, and I made friends with them.

The next week, I heard there would be a dance workshop over the weekend. I drag your dad and one of my other friends with me, thinking, “Oh, I love dancing this should be a fun way to make friends.”

As soon as we get there, I freeze in front of the door, and I start to panic. I sat at a table outside and hummed to myself and played on my phone, wasting time while my friends waited for me to make up my mind on whether I really wanted to go in or not. Of course I wanted to go in, but there was this nervousness and anxiety that prevented me from doing so. I probably paced around the door looking in for 20 minutes, on the verge of tears, before finally getting pushed in. As soon as I was in I thought, “Okay, not so bad…” But after we started I was gone after the first 10 minutes.

Yet another example of how anxiety was holding me back.

My last story is of this past weekend. I hear that there is another dance workshop over the weekend, but it’s with the Filipino club. I think, “Okay, I can do this, I can do this I’ll stay and I won’t leave I’ll make friends and be happy I can do this.”

The morning before leaving I think about just staying home and being a weenie, but I force myself to go, and I had a really good time! This time when I went, there was very little hesitation. The group I was with was very small which helped a lot, and I did dance and I did make a new friend and I felt really happy afterwards.

I guess what I’m trying to say about these stories is that I exposure-therapied myself? Which means I kept forcing myself to go to social gatherings, and I gradually became more okay with them.

During my gap year, I spent most of my time at home by myself. In that time I gradually forgot how to talk to people, and all the progress I made overcoming my social anxiety during my freshman year in college was pushed aside as a new wave of fear overwhelmed me.

Okay, now it’s time for a change of scenery and mood in this post.

EMBER, YOU ARE WALKING! Okay now to try and tie these stories together:

You love to be chased and tickled, you think it’s hilarious. Your Lolo keeps making scary sounds, and you laugh and you run away and it actually gets you to walk!

You somehow use your sense of flight to make you stronger. But I guess it’s not truly flight because you’re not truly scared, you’re just playing around.

I’ve spent most of my life in flight. Only since I’ve hit college have I started choosing to fight. By the way you constantly tackle me and bite me and slap me in the face, I can tell you are already a fighter (and I mean that in a nice way).

I don’t want to keep running away from people. I want to make friends and enjoy my life. I don’t want to keep holding myself back, and I would never dream of holding you back.

I hope that as time goes by we can fight together.

New Year New Me??

Apparently I haven’t written a blog post in 2 months, which is awful. I have ideas constantly running through my head, but I find myself lacking the time and/or energy to write them out.

Anyways, I’m 20 now! Yay me!

I came out to have a good time and I'm honestly feeling so attacked right now.

I came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now.

The title of my post is usually something said during New Year, but I’m applying it to my birthday. New year, and technically new me?

If I went back in time and told little weeb 14 year old me that in the future I would chop my hair off and walk around wearing green lipstick, I would not believe it. If I told myself I could give a presentation without shaking or crying, I would not believe it. If I told myself I could go shopping and talk to employees and ask questions without first pacing around the store for an hour filled with anticipation, I would not believe it.

But shit, I never would’ve believed I’d have a baby at 20, so everything else seems so…

Ember, since the moment I found out I was pregnant, you have changed me. For the better, sweet baby.

Every moment before I had you was full of horrible paranoia. I talked about my depression and anxiety, but I cannot stress enough how utterly miserable I was.

Every minute of my life was Where am I going to school? What if I don’t like this major? Will I have to start over? Can I switch schools? How much does living in an apartment cost? What if I fail these classes? What if I can’t make any friends? What if I’m the first person to show up at that meeting and I have to stand there awkward and alone? What am I going to do after college? Will I ever defeat the patriarchy? What if I fall into crippling debt? Do I kill myself? How should I kill myself, so that it will be fast and painless and not too inconvenient to clean up? Where do I kill myself? Will tomorrow be better? Will next year be better? What am I waiting for? What do I have to look forward to?

When I say my heart was devoid of hope, I meant it.

But you. You, Ember. You’ve changed me more than I can ever say.

You’ve taken that hot mess and transformed it into When will Ember walk? What will her first words be? I hope it’s Mom, I didn’t carry her in my tummy for 9 months to let Zach have the satisfaction of getting called first. Okay, I’ll take this one semester at a time and graduate as soon as I can, and I’ll get a good job so I can buy Ember whatever she wants. Anything. I wonder if she’ll like school. I wonder what her favorite subject will be, or what her hobbies or interests will be. I will be the most loving and involved parent; I’ll look up everything she likes so I can talk to her about it. I have the rest of my life to love her.

Not only have you changed the way I think about my future, but you’ve changed the way I think about myself.

I talked about how I was picked on because of my skin. My eczema, my discoloration. People called me ugly, and I believed them. My lowest point was in high school. My skin was acting up, it was bleeding and oozing and I was in so much pain. I felt so disgusting, so horribly ugly, that during lunch that day I looked down at my food and thought, “I don’t deserve to eat. I don’t deserve this food. Eating is for beautiful people.”

I always remember that day. And I wish I could go back in time and hug myself and tell myself that I deserve so much more.

I read an article one day that really changed how I looked at myself. (I can’t seem to find it, but if I do I’ll link it here.) It was a woman talking about how women always put themselves down and criticize their bodies (because hell, everyone else is) but in doing so they’re setting the example. Their daughters will look to them, see their mothers hating on themselves, and think, “Oh, well I need to start hating my body too.”

I will not be that mother. I will not plant the seeds of insecurity in your beautiful little heart. I will fill you with nothing but confidence and self esteem, because you deserve nothing less.

Now when I look in the mirror, I think

  • Eyebrows on fleek
  • Lipstick cute af
  • Highlight / contour game strong
  • Eyeshadow perfect as always
  • Eyeliner sharp enough to kill
  • Hair on point
  • Clothes on point
  • Pretty eyes pretty nose pretty lips
  • Cute tummy cute thighs cute hips
  • EVERYTHING 100% ON POINT
An example of my looking 200% cute.

An example of me looking 200% cute.

What took me so, so, so many painful years to see, is that I am beautiful. With or without makeup, I walk around with my head held high like I run this shit, because I do.

I’m sitting on my bed typing this and you are sleeping in your crib next to me, and I can see in your not-yet-developed facial features that you are beautiful and you are a goddess and you are perfect, and you must never let ANYONE convince you otherwise.

There are people in this world that cannot tell the difference between confidence and cockiness, between self-love and immodesty, but their ignorance is not your problem. Love yourself shamelessly, love yourself before anyone else. Because you are so wonderful and magical and beautiful and worthy of love. You already have all the love in my heart.

Ember, you’ve given me the gift of confidence. You’ve given me the ability to love myself. Because if I was able to create something as beautiful as you, then how bad can I be?

I still have a long way to go, but seeing how far I’ve come lately, I know I can do it.

I’m not going to be a mother that can’t make a phone call. I’m not going to be a mother that can’t talk to people in public, or cry whenever I do. I’m not going to let social anxiety take over when I have so much to do.

Ember, I’m going to make you proud of me.