An Unlikely Hero

Every child needs a hero; not like Spider-man or Captain America, but someone to tell them how important they are, to make them feel wanted, and teach them how to be strong. All my life, I wanted to say that person was my mother, the woman who came to America at age 19, who does not have a single mean thing say about anyone. She is beloved by all her meet her, a wonderfully sweet lady, and I love her, with everything I have. Which is why I think my heart breaks to not call her my hero. And I almost hate myself for feeling that way since I was a little girl.

 My childhood is a blur, I think it’s because I block out memories of my past, the ones of an abusive household, both physically and emotionally. My father carried his stern look with him always, striving for perfection when it came to his expectations. But that left him with nothing but disappointment and disdain for me, one that he acted upon often. I turned to my mother fearful wanting her help, wanting her to say something to stop him from hurting me. But she stayed silent, begging me to do the same. She reminded me I mustn’t tell anyone. It was my family’s secret, but I tried my hardest to just be a part of the family everyone else would see.
12- years-old seems to be the age everything changed, the age I  vividly remember my mom’s silence, where I somehow can’t block out the memories that have been ingrained in me. A time where the line between the father and monster turned grew even more undefinable. For years I had learned that the smell of beer meant for a sleepless night,  the sound of belts snapping sent would forever send shivers down my spine. But, above all I knew to never mention any of this to anyone, A lesson that did not come from my father, but from my mother. Her apologetic behavior for him ranged from “He’s just doing this because he loves you” to “Maybe if you actually did well on the test, he wouldn’t be calling you stupid and worthless.” I tried to understand her and tell myself that maybe one day when I’m older I’ll be over all of this. The bruises on my back and the ringing in my eyes are still a feeling I have not forgotten. I needed my mom, I needed all the pain to stop,  yet, she never came through and I promised myself at 12 years old to never be my mother. I wanted to be loud, happy, and not living in fear, all the things I watched her try to strip away from me. As much as I loved her and understood she thought this was the way to protect me from my father, I couldn’t sacrifice myself, my being, to be the quiet and terrified daughter she wanted.
Then,there was Amy, A silver lining in one of the darkest times of my life. She was a gentle elementary school teacher never once questioned why I wanted to spend so much of my free time at a school. At a critical time of my life filled with bullying and panic attacks, Amy’s classroom gave me the comfort I desired.  I wanted to be just like her, emulating her kindness, when my father was trying to take that away from me.

I was so full of life and eagerness to be Amy’s  special helper. And I was- with every chance that I got, I was there. I was drawn to her heart and quirkiness and her ability to never show  a hesitation of softness.  It was place where my happiness felt genuine. I didn’t have to pretend to be anything else than myself and that was always enough.  She listened to my 12-year -old nonsense and for the first time in my life, I felt like was important. Amy’s kindness was special, something that despite all the wonderful teachers I’ve had, it gave me hope that my future could be filled with the same kind of joy I was finally shown.  I adored her with all my heart, writing in a journal that I kept hidden under my mattress how I hoped to make her so proud, thanking her for showing me what it means to actually have someone showing me how to love others.

Years passed and I watched as my mother grew quieter and more distant from my me. The Stockholm Syndrome she was under grew stronger, pulling her away from the woman she once was; she was almost unrecognizable. While I knew the blame was on my father and my mom was a victim just like me, I begun planning a future without them. Because loving my mom does not me I have to sit here in my own self destruction.

By 16, I was counting the days until my 18th birthday, freedom was a concept I could only imagine. I remained in touch with Amy, still thinking about how her kindness helped shaped the young woman I was now. However my teenage years were still terrorized by a monster who made me feel a new kind of worthless, one that differed from younger years. It was a terror that made me question my existence, my abilities, my intelligence and purpose in this world. One that mocked my mental illness before I even realized what was wrong with me. One that blocked my contact from the outside world by having access to my phone and messages, leaving me feeling completely dependent, as if I never would be able to get out.

That year I met Andrea, another teacher who offered me comfort in her classroom. While my mother grew distant from me, and continued to join my father in telling me that I’m not good enough to survive on my own, Andrea was my constant reassurance. She reminded me while the world was big, it’s people like me that are able to conquer it. I felt so incredibly alone, never quite sure what to do, but there she was every day. She sat there at her desk, listening to me go on and on about my social problems with friends, to feeling heartbroken over a red-headed boy. I even told her about the problems with my parents, though I purposely held back details, it was something I’d never done. Andrea wrote my college recommendation letter speaking about my determination- A trait I didn’t even know I had. She told me that, no matter what my dad or anyone else tells me, I was ready for college, and that I’m a fighter who keeps moving forward despite what I believe. Though I was afraid of the constant judgement I would face with my anxiety building up and  my fears  grew stronger, while others laughed and pushed me away. She never turned me away or made me believe that everything I felt was in my head, I felt valid, important, finally like there was a future for me beyond the life I was given. I would talk to her everyday (no really, everyday), and whenever I doubted the goodness of the world, she always proved me wrong in best way possible. It was the support system a 16-year-old needed and she was the role model I looked up to for just about every problem I had. While she may not have had the answers to every situation I put in front of her, she reminded me that even though my happy ending might not be what I wanted or thought it would be, that they do exist.

Both Amy and Andrea welcomed me no matter how old I got, and they were there for me in ways no one else was at the time. I learned how that genuine kindness isn’t just a concept I imagined, it was real and it was right in front of me. And above all I learned to have faith in other people, but more importantly how to have faith in myself. They were they were the heroes in my life

As my twenty-first birthday approaches, I look back on the years and know that I’m far from the girl I once was; I fight more than I ever did throughout my life. I stand up to abuse, to cruelty, or to anyone who tries to threaten peace in this life. My father no longer terrifies me as I have grown into the woman with unbreakable voice, I don’t let him control me and now I have the strength to speak up for my mother and will continue to do so until she has the same ability to do the same.

I do it for my mom, I do it for Amy, I do it for Andrea, and I do it for the 12 year old little girl with big brown eyes and the warmest hugs. The one who never lets go of love when she receives it because she’s not accustomed to it. She doesn’t know yet that the pages she wrote in a dim light in her room would soon be shelves with 20 journals of unfinished works because of how quickly her mind works and how proud she is of her voice.  I fight for her, I fight to be the person she needed, and to be the woman the other little girls need, the one my mom needs.

As happy as I am to no longer be that 12 year old, I love her; I love her when no one else did, I love her for making me who I am today, I love her for finding wonderful women in her life such as Amy and Andrea to guide her. I’m my own hero now, but this much is true- I never would be fighting this to recuse myself and others like me, if no one showed that I was worth saving.

Little by little I see my mother regain the light in her eyes and the ability to not live in fear; I’m so proud of her, and I tell her how strong she is; to survive and keep on living is the strength within itself. My mom might not have saved me, but I’m going to fight like hell to save her, because even though every child needs a hero, grown-ups do too.

-J

My Mother’s Unspoken Words

The earliest memory I have with my mom is in the kitchen, I can’t imagine it would be anywhere else. She brought a bowl, two eggs, a measuring cup and pancake mix to the ground because I couldn’t reach the counter. We mixed the ingredients together and she grabbed a chair for me to stand on so I can reach the counter and pour the mix into the pan. She told me to be careful pouring the batter, but I didn’t listen, my finger got too close to the pan, and I got burned. I jumped off the chair crying and my mom picked me up and quickly ran my finger under cold water. I sat at the table crying, and I watched my mom finish making the pancakes.

To this day, I’m still weary of the kitchen; the heat of the over still terrifies me, feeling fire near my skin or even taking something out of the microwave was scary for me. Afraid to get burned once again, I stilled baked with my mom, but I never went anywhere near to oven. I watched her, wondering if cooking will ever give me the same kind of peace I see in my mother. The kitchen was her canvas and her food was her masterpiece. Food to her, was the greatest gift she could give to somebody.

I’ve always believed food is a universal language, it tells the story of the generations of families to the dedicated chef who created them. The only women at the grill, carrying pride and passion, yet extreme modesty. I think it’s because she knows it only takes one taste for people to understand her artwork. She is an artist drawing inspiration from the land that she came from and the one she now calls home.

Cooking is an art form, and my mother an artist, showing me the bravery I lacked from a young age. just because someone isn’t in your mind of bravery doesn’t mean they are. Fearless in the Kitchen, allowing her to open her shy personality, it’s easier for her to talk to people once they’ve had a bite,  because it’s as if they’ve already know a part of her.

 

At 19- years- old my mother came to America from the Philippines, and has not been back since. While I’m sure her heart sometimes aches for the connection to her past, she has created a new life here and is very much loved. As I’ve grown older, the less she talks about her home country, I wonder if it’s because another day here, is another day further away from the home she once knew. Since I was young I’ve longed for a connection to her past. Asking her to tell me stories of her former life. I would ask more questions in one language than she can answer in Two. She’s a quiet woman, and her stories never carry too much detail, she’s always at a loss for words. But, with each dish came another story, a lot of them would sometimes be the same one but I was okay. My mom was no longer at a lost for words, she might be bilingual but cooking was her language of choice.

It’s through her quiet and calm serenity I learned that strength comes in many different forms and for my mother, her strength can be found in the endless nights she spends making 1000 rolls of Lumpia without asking for help. Her hands and eyes exhausted, but she can’t dare disappoint and holds her ability with much pride, knowing she’s the only one who can fill each one with her perfection. With each new recipe, she shines and shows her bravery, fearlessly taking on new ingredients and events. I see her courage as she lets strangers try her hand made creation, telling them a story with just a taste. There’s vulnerability in her stories, yet she stands in the middle of a kitchen allowing everyone to watch her make them come to life. I’ll never get the joy on her face when she see’s someone take their first bite.

Throughout the years I often felt as if I was losing my mother to some monster with two faces. Yet, each time I doubted her, she would return to the kitchen, showing me she’s still there. It was the thing that remained constant during my youth. There’s a strength in the ability to find a safe haven in time of trouble. Though it’s a strength I still don’t quite understand, with each taste and each year, I get a little better at understanding.

And I’ve gotten better at listening to my mother’s unspoken words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa’s Spotlight- A Birthday Gift.

I watch from the sidelines, while you shine on the stage; I’m mesmerized hearing you sing. And who am I? Just an awkward fan. Is it strange that I’m calling myself a fan of yours, as if you’re an A-list celebrity and I’m the overlooked journalist, who’s not trying to exploit you, but just wants to tell you that you’re cool and we should be friends? After all you’re my age, we’re in the same school, same choir. Yet I don’t say anything I stay standing, listening, and watching you in the spotlight.

16 is a funny age, every movie makes it out to be like the prime of your teenage years. My reality was faced with an exceedingly strict upbringing, a cut off from social media. A time where I would sneak eyeliner into my bag, put in on at school, and take it off before I got home. Having the spirit of a queen who wanted to rule, but had a kingdom taken away before I even had a chance to conquer it.

I joined show choir my junior year of high school, hoping that maybe I’ll have a kingdom to rule, finally happy with the people I surrounded myself with. My first encounter with Melissa, isn’t one that she would remember, because she probably couldn’t see my face in the crowd of choir kids. She sang my favorite song, New York State of Mind by Billy Joel. When the song ended I saw a group of kids stand and roar with applause cheering her name; everyone loved her. I instantly realized that I was not going to rule this kingdom either, but for the first time, I was okay with that, this queen seemed pretty great.

After adding her on Facebook, I felt an overcoming amount of envy fill up. As if singing wasn’t enough she was perhaps the most photogenic  16- year- old I’ve ever seen. Her pictures were filled with comments of a myriads of friends ( or fans) commenting about her perfection. Not to mention her hair had been dyed red. I had been begging my parents to let me dye my hair red for years, and here she was with a luscious and thick head full of the most gorgeous mahogany red hair. Melissa was everything I wanted to be in high school, loved, confident, intelligent, but never cruel to others. She was always one step ahead of the trend, not afraid to be different, but praised for it. She was the star of the show, playing a princess with a powerful voice, and I, I was merely just a member of the ensemble who never got tired of watching her shine.

The remainder of high school certainly was better than the last several years of my education, yet I still remained without a kingdom conquered. But a silver lining appeared; early December of 2013, I had gotten into Marymount Manhattan College. It was a small liberal arts college in the upper east side of New York City. There was my ticket out of a small town and into the bustling city where I believed the rest of my future waited for me. A new start and a new life where I could finally reign as the uptown girl from a downtown world I wanted to be.

Complications arose, and after fighting harder than I ever had in my life, I made my commitment to Cal State Fullerton, under one condition, I would be living on campus, not with my parents.

Feeling defeated, I tried not to talk about my future with my classmates who were traveling around the country for their future. When graduation day was arriving, they posted the list of which seniors would be attending which school, and to my surprise, I saw Melissa’s name next to mine on the list for CSUF

If I remembered correctly, Melissa had gotten into Berklee College of Music in Boston; A school full of opportunities and experiences that would suit her so perfectly. I was so excited for her, because I couldn’t imagine anyone else who could possibly deserved a chance like that. But This girl who I had considered to be a star of the show, was now going to be a regular Cal State classmate just like me. Both of us were going to staying in the freshman dorms of CSUF, eating in the same cafeteria, taking the same bus to get to work, and overall, both of us were going to be living a life completely different than what we had expected merely less than a year before.

After discovering we had a class together, and sticking together due to our common bond, Melissa and I were spending a remarkable amount of time together. She taught me the ways of doing my eyebrows, and the art of aesthetic, and I felt like Elphaba in Wicked when Galinda teaches her to be popular. Though let’s be honest, personality wise, I’m the bubbly and sparkly one, while Melissa is a bit more reserved than I am. In the year that we were dorming we became the closest of  friends in our little friendship group, I think it’s perhaps we both felt this overwhelming sense that we weren’t exactly where we were suppose to be. We became roommates and the best of friends.

Melissa was quicker to realize her unhappiness in her path that I was, and in ways I regret, I believe I envied her for that too, but unlike high school I couldn’t take my envious behavior and watch her shine from a distance. We were too close, so instead of helping her shine like a friend, I wanted my light to outshine hers.

Despite every obstacle and the world saying there is only way way to succeed in this life, Melissa showed that none of that matter to her and she was going to continue to do her own thing . I watched as the people who would comment about her perfection whenever she posted something a little different that made her stand out of the crowd, slowly faded into the distance, and for a little while, I become one of them. When in reality I was just wondering how she could be so confident without the approval of the peers she once knew so well, but she was no longer the Melissa they once knew.

She had blossomed, and had done so gracefully and quicker than most of the people we knew, and certainly faster than me.  During my time of envy, Melissa still remained praising me, defending me, and supporting me in all my adventures. She was the true embodiment of a queen who fixes other queen’s crowns, someone who finds beauty in people and captures it so she can show them what others see.  And while I might have rolled my eyes as her aesthetic, I was blind to see the art and creativity she carries in her heart. But once I had grown and opened my eyes and my mind to her world, I realized that she wasn’t on the ground, she was flying about everyone else; it was just a matter of time before I learned how to fly as well.

I’m so incredibly proud of Melissa as she reminds me to search for the good in the world and possible paths a person has in their life,  She is not the same girl who would stand in the spotlight, but I’m no longer the girl who watched her from the wings. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned through the past several years is you don’t need to conquer and gain the affection of a whole kingdom to be a queen, you simply have to believe you are one. I don’t fight or envy Melissa’s spotlight, because we each have a different stage and a different show to preform.

Four years ago, I would have been speechless if you told me that Melissa was going to be one of my best friends, and someone who I no longer can envision my life without. I’m grateful for her and I value our friendship to no ends; I will always be here to fix her crown.

Jesus is a Feminist

Everyday I check the Facebook section of what happened on this day, usually full of laughs of my former old self. I came across a status expressing how excited I was to go the bible study that night and I saw my old youth pastor, Travis,  commented. I removed him and several others from my friends list a while ago, but I decided to check in on him.

He seems to be doing alright, he’s still working for the church, extremely passionate about his job, and him and his wife are expecting a baby next month. I’m incredibly happy for him.

Scrolling through some of his most recent Facebook posts and I see one that says “Remember when your life didn’t suck so much back when you use to go to church?? Yeah maybe you should go back.” I doubted this post was directly at me, after all Travis was the kind of guy who would send out massive texts to the community inviting them to church saying” Be there or be square.”

Yet I imagined that it could be about me. After all I ,by his definition, have I become one of those former youth kids he mentioned in one of his sermons that have run away from God. I didn’t attend church anymore, I don’t listen to christian music or give my weekly donation to the church.  However, to be quite honest that didn’t bother me as much as I’m sure it would have 6 years ago. So I began reminiscing on all my old church days I look back on the 10+ years I spent in SeaCoast Grace.

There isn’t a time in my childhood I don’t remember learning about God or attending Sunday School. Each week I would arrive in a dress and a bible in hand, reciting the verse I had learned the week before. Most of my memories at my church were good ones, carnivals, pizza parties, vacation bible school filled with the simplest, yet most important lessons the bible could teach. God loves you, and he wants you to love others.

Time went on, and the lessons of the church intensified, I met young aspiring pastors, such as Travis, with a passion for bringing the community to the church. I wanted to befriend them, and be just like them. Travis and the other pastors were telling us every week to invite friends, throwing lavish events with young modern music, and wild games trying to attract the youth. It wasn’t long before my classmates started to show up to my church. I gained a hierarchy when they entered my sanctuary, I was better than them, they weren’t true Christians.  They partied and played while I prayed, volunteered my time with children and to the church. I wrote journals during the prime christian years of my life. The entries now are good for a laugh; my friends often quote it, one even used a passage as inspiration for a monologue. Reading back on them it’s hard to imagine how incredibly closed minded and judgmental I was.

I don’t read my old journals to necessarily make myself better , nor am I here to write about my transformation from a hateful christian to someone who is a feminist who supports burning down churches. Instead I keep them as a reminder of why I’m fighting as hard as I too make sure the message of love and acceptance is the main the one I’m trying to spread, like Christians are suppose to do.

Let me be clear as well, a person filled with love and acceptance is not the person who rants on Facebook about boycotting a movie with a gay agenda or screams at planned parenthood for murdering babies, but then adds ” I love all people” to sugarcoat their post. Saying “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is nothing but a person using God as justification for their own hateful and judgmental prejudice.

Yes of course, not everyone  with a religious background is like this, however the sad reality is an extremely loud majority of people are. 60 million people voted for Donald Trump, regardless of their reasoning, there are self proclaim Christians who believe that he is the candidate God would have wanted America.

This not only contradicts the idea of freedom of religion in this country and the separation of church and state, but there’s literally a whole book, that explains why Jesus would never support a man like Donald Trump- it’s called the Bible.

And while I’m bringing up the holy text itself, if one were to read it carefully they would see: Jesus is a feminist

Jesus would have supported the BLM movement, and he would have looked at the LGBTQA community and say “You’re welcome here, I love you, I’m sorry people have taught you otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with your love for another human.” He takes the women who have bee hurt by men and reminds them of their value. And he would have undoubtedly found room and hospitality for Syrian Refugees. Jesus frowns upon those who protect their wealth over humanity and has called out hypocrites who criticize others for acting as if they are better than anyone else. He spent time with the sick, the poor, the outcasts, the ones that the so called Christians would not dare come close too. He shares love equally despite age, gender, race, sexuality, and wealth.

Intersectional feminism is about the political, economical, and social equality of the sexes, regardless of sexuality, religion, etc, if you don’t think that God isn’t supportive of a movement such as that, then quite frankly, It’s not a God I would want to worship.

Just because you go to church does not make you a good person, and in the past 4 years, I’ve met more accepting humans outside my church community, who have supported me and everyone else more than the church ever has. And I don’t believe me pushing my Christian background onto them will make them a more valuable human, because they are amazing exactly how they are; and I don’t wish to change that.

Being a queer, a feminist, and a Christian can be a lonely feeling, because it seems like the you can’t be both. I have found despite the endless hatred I have been shown by the Christian community, love actually is all around. I see it in my  Grandmother who taught me that being gay can’t be a sin because how can love for another human ever possibly be wrong, I see it in my manager who hugged me and told me not only they were proud of the person I had become, but God was too; he knows my heart and no one ever gets to tell me otherwise.  Above all I find God’s love in the children I once worked with, and the children I get to meet everyday.

Jesus once said:  “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

For a child lives their life with open-mindedness and love. They soak up things like a sponge, and grow up unaware of the evil around them. So they love before one is taught to hate, to look at colors and see one as good and the other as bad, or to think that we must value lives of certain people over another.  It was the years of my early youth, where I truly remember having a wild imagination seeing everything in bright colors and with happiness. To often it’s when a child grows up they lose their sense of acceptance, but I truly believe that Christianity is meant to restore that childlike feeling and let it shine through the world.

I’m eternally grateful to have to opportunity to continue to grow into the woman that I know God wants me to be, but I know I wouldn’t be this passionate if it wasn’t for the powerful women that have empowered me through my life. The greatest lesson I’ve learned was one the church never taught me; it is not your religious belief, the amount of times you pray, the hours you spend at a sanctuary that makes you a beautiful person, but it is your treatment of others around you and of lesser privilege. It’s standing for a movement that reminds people that matter who you are, where you’re from, how any person has ever made you feel, you are so incredibly important to this world.

 

 

Socialization of Jay

(I actually really liked this Socialization essay I wrote up for class so this is me just saving it to my website because there are some lines in here I’m really proud of- carry on friends, this one is for me)

 

From a macro-sociological  perspective, it seems everyone is effected by the society around them, but smaller societies that get to work with a person individually can alter the socialization of them. For instance, everyone is impacted by the rules of this country, though how they choose to react is all determined on the different aspects or important details to a person’s upbringing, also known as their socialization the process in which they’ve learned the norms, values and behaviors of society. Everyone has experienced some form of socialization, including myself. I exposed myself to the mass media at a young age and that played a significant part in how I grew to be, however more specific communities such as my education experience, my religious faith and even the economy had an extremely meaningful purpose in my life.

My father always told me he knew before I started school, he wanted me the have the best opportunities for my education. My earliest years of schooling taught me the basics of how to act in society, more than my home life ever did. It was through school I learned or improved upon my literacy and grew admiration for figures in authority, giving them respect. School was the classic of all norms to me, everyone my age was in school and I actually enjoyed school, well the learning aspect of school. It was strange for me to hear that someone didn’t want to learn. However, I find there are more latent functions of my education socialization than there are main functions, school as far as I remember was where my first source of friendship began. Being surrounded by 20 other kids taught me how to wait my turn to speak instead of sharing what was always on my mind, allowed me to listen to other voices and was my first introduction to diversity. Up until my years in school, I was only familiar to what my parents had taught me, which was an exceedingly strict upbringing. It amazed me to see how many children could do things I couldn’t. This discovery continued up until I was in high school, but the shock factor eventually went away. School is where I discovered my passions for writing and performing, and what I wanted to do once I got to college, all of which were supported by teachers, creating a sense of security and haven for me. At the time I was in my own little bubble unaware of the outside world. My creativity was always highly encouraged; my district was exceedingly well known to do well in the arts. My schools emphasized success and measured in one either proving themselves talented in the Academics, Athletics and the Arts. I heard my city everywhere in the paper “ Los Alamitos wins nationals again” My school had money and had pride in everything it did and only hired the best of teachers and coaches. When funding was cut for the arts, parents stepped right in. I traveled across the country staying in 5 star hotels for national competitions they we’ve won. The teachers I met guided me through some of the most difficult times of my life, each one leaving a part of themselves along with me. Los Alamitos gave every student who fell behind the chance to pick themselves back up again, from the beginning I was surrounded by an environment that cared for my future and my well being. I had so many amazing teachers I considered being one for the longest time. But Los Alamitos was a blessing and a curse to me, while it developed my pride in myself and created my ability to dream big and know that I’m capable, it created a bubble sense in me that was significantly popped once I got to college. Everything I thought I knew about support was no longer around me, and to even hear about the programs from other students I had met, opened my eyes to my privilege and how lucky I was. Perhaps Los Alamitos developed my ability to dream big for my life; that was their goal and their goal was met, but by becoming increasingly aware of my privilege it has become a passion of mine to assure that others are given the same opportunity.
Despite going to a well off school in a wealthy neighborhood, one would assume that was the economic background that I came from, but that was far from true. My parents both never attended college and my mother is an immigrant who was a stay at home mom until I was around seven when she got a part time job working in my school cafeteria. My dad made most of the income in a small production company. We were a lower middle class, and sometimes it felt like we might have been even lower than that. Living with my grandma, because we were unable to afford a house, I learned how to conserve and live perhaps not as glamorously as most of my classmates. Due to not having the financial ability of other students, it impacted my social life; at the time, that was my normal. While all my friends were able to afford cars and leave the house whenever they so please, I still had to wait for a ride from my parents and it depended on their work schedule if I was able to be with my friends or not. My Dad also wanted to save money on the phone bill, so I didn’t get a smart phone until I was 17 and didn’t even have the ability to text people until then either. This made it difficult for me to communicate with my peers. And while I now cannot imagine my life being socially cut off, that was my normal at the time. Though the main point of not having things like a reliable phone or transportation was to conserve money, it created a sense of insecurity in me because I constantly felt like I wasn’t good enough to fit in with the people at my school. My senior year I was accepted into a small private liberal arts college in Manhattan, and I was more determined than ever to go there, but the tuition was 50,000 dollars per year. My family was not in the financial situation to send me there, or really send m anywhere outside of Orange Country; hence why I chose CSUF. While the main point of this decision was due to a lack of finances, it sent me into a spiral of depression. I spent my first year of college on campus, not sure how I was going to get by in life with a barely above minimum wage job and living cost being so expensive. When I was offered a job at the Disneyland Resort, I had a choice to make because the pay was less than what my job at the time was paying me. Everything I had been taught was to always stick to where the money is, and I knew that technically I would be more stable in a job that was paying me more, able to save more, just like my parents had taught me. At first when I chose to work at Disneyland, I faced backlash from my parents who were concerned with my finances. However, after a year and a half went by since I went against what my socialization had taught me, I’ve found myself significantly happier. Disneyland is a job that supports me financially first, but it’s acted as my life support, my future career, my dream come true.
I remember knowing the word “God” was before I can think of anything else. Raised in Christian home, my relationship with the church developed a sense of what was good and what was bad. I understood from a young age I had a heavenly father who loved me ever so. Sin was evil, and I lived my life knowing that, I shouldn’t lie, I shouldn’t deny God, and I should always be kind. Of all the stories. my attention span was always drawn to the stories of kindness and the selflessness of others. Evil and temptation was everywhere, but my church taught me to choose good in every situation because anything in between is a lukewarm Christian and is just as bad as a sinner. Though the purpose of me attending church was to develop a relationship God, I gained a part of myself that wasn’t from God. While I do believe it is because of my years of devoutness that I have such a strong conscience and passion for helping others, I grew exceedingly quick to judge things that weren’t in my eyes the right thing. The classic topics about homosexuality, drinking, sex before marriage, abortions, were abominations and so incredibly taboo. As I entered high school and became exposed to different scenarios temptation, and even falling into some of them I grew out of my judgement. But because of my Christian, I carried a sense of guilty and self-hate for a long time. Even after I had stopped attending the church, and gone off to college nearly three years ago; I still felt a sense of unease whenever someone mocked Christianity or even brought up subjects about drunkenness, and other topics I had grown up taught to hate. However with the help of media, my job, my school, friends, I turned my passionate heart that I was told was a gift from God, into one that is speaks up against violence, hatred, and proudly stands with other intersectional feminists and other queers.
I’ve always been influenced by media, because everything is some form of media. Whether it was news reports about violence talk would make my heart cry out or watching the Oscars, I was fascinated. I turned to all forms of social media for such as stories, spending hours on the computer clicking article after article educating myself that made me want to be a writer or actors that gave m inspiration, or where I would rely on my biggest source of news. While the main function of media was the network or share news with family and friends, ultimately it was social media is what created my friend base, it’s where I met the love of my life, where I learned about diversity and have created connections with people from around the world and began to educate myself. I’ve learned how to be socially polite and aware from things as small as knowing not to double post on Instagram, to elaborating to a homophobic misogynist why they are in fact incorrect in the most formal and intelligent way that I can. Though I still consider it rude to be on one’s phone at the dinner table, or that a text message is not the same as talking in person, I’m grateful for social media because it’s through educating myself I have been able to take my privilege of my education, my economical career at The Disneyland Resort, and the God given heart full of passion for equality and put it all to good work.

According the Emile Durkheim,The Manifest Functions of all the areas that contributed to my socialization are obvious. School was meant to educate me, A lower income family was simply supposed to mean I didn’t have as much money, a religious background taught me about God, and social media gave me access to the outside world. However, I personally believe that it is through the Latent Functions, I developed my true sense of socialization and sense of place in this world. Durkheim would say that it is due to the Dysfunctions or challenges to the different Structures of my life, I ended up the way that I am; frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Find Happiness Right Where You Are

Yesterday I rang up a family who absolutely touched my heart, and I know I needed to share this.

A couple came up to the register in Elias. They had a son, who couldn’t be any older than 4, in a stroller. They were holding an Ariel bubble wand, and I was expecting them to ask if we “had any boy ones.” But they seemed content with the Ariel one. It was towards the end of the night and the couple was trying to get their son to get out of the stroller or at least say hi, but I knew he was tired.I asked the him if he wanted me to set it up, and his face lit up with excitement. I started to tell him how much I love Ariel. He was a little shy, so his parents told me how much he loved Ariel too .
I said ” Ariel has always been my favorite, however I have to say, I now have so much love for Moana, she could be my new favorite”

They said Moana was his favorite too and ask him to get out of the stroller so he could show me that he was wearing Moana’s dress. He was so incredibly happy showing it off. The couple also said how much people had been staring at him all day. Without hesitation I said ” They’re staring because we’re sold out of Moana’s dress, so they’re probably all wondering where you got such a great costume. After all Moana is super cool, who wouldn’t want to wear her dress”
I continued to set up the bubble wand, and came from behind the counter so I could hand it to him and show him how to turn it on. He started jumping around with the bubbles before I even go a chance to give it to him”
Looking at him at I said, “you know, if you think about it, Moana and Ariel would be really great friends, make sure you give both of them a big hug for me okay”
As the couple left, they thanked me for spending time talking to their son and for telling him it’s okay for boys to like princesses

After this transaction I had to step away for a brief moment because I had started tearing up a little bit. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I’m unapologetic when it comes to my stance for equality. To me, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything special; I was just doing exactly what I try to speak up for everyday- I was being myself. I realized they were thanking me because of the amount of judgment they must receive from the world, but in reality I wanted to be thanking them. Especially in today’s modern world, it becomes hard to see love and acceptance when society is filled with so much hate. They touched my heart more than I could have touched theirs, because to me it is people like them that carry the hope for the future. I saw nothing but absolute happiness from this family, and here’s to the couples like them- to the ones creating a generation of love, compassion and acceptance, and just letting kids be the natural loving kids they are meant to be.
Love wins. Love will always win

I’m With the Stupid

I sit down at a table with someone who is  extremely dear to me; he listens to me ramble on about god knows what. Subtly I notice he is smiling, but at what? I blush and look down and apologize. ” I’m sorry, I talk too much.”I’ve grown accustomed to saying this phrase at least one with every interaction, regardless if  I’m close to them or meeting them for the first time.

Since I was young I’ve been called the oh so cliche, “Miss Chatty Cathy.” All my report cards from elementary school with graciously read “Jaymeann is a bright creative girl, but gets distracted rather easily and just loves to talk.” I would see these comments and walk away with a smirk, I wore my outgoing personality with absolute pride.

The confidence and ability to embrace the traits that made me myself, helped me as I continued to spend my free time as a performer and creating friendships I would hope last me for quite some time. I wish I had maintained that confidence as the years continued, but it was short-lived

At 12 -years – old, I was in my very first set of honors classes, I raised my hand to answer a question, my interpretation of the book we were reading, and there was an outburst of laughter. The way I had seen it was just far too optimistic, the book was too dark for me. I had never been so scared to volunteer in class before, but I spent most of my English class, my favorite subject, sitting in the corner hoping that no one would think I was stupid..History wasn’t any better, as my teacher felt the need to mimic the way that I spoke, using over-dramatic hand gestures and a high pitch voice. The students felt it was okay to join along.

I was Elle Woods for Halloween, and nobody even blinked. To them- it wasn’t even a costume, I was a dumb blond in disguise anyways. At the time, I never looked as Elle as the hero that I see and inspiration as I see her as now. The woman that stood up to every single stereotype and fought against misogyny, and treated everyone with kindness. I saw her the way  I believed people saw me, shallow, stupid, and completely “not serious”

We don’t want to work with you, we want smart people in this group”

“But I have a B in this class”

“I’m sorry, not good enough, besides, you’d probably just talk the whole time anyways”

Cruelty of middle schoolers has never been a surprise, but I never wanted to fight back with words. Instead I thought I’m just going to change every aspect about me.Slowly I began to second guess every decision I made. “Don’t speak”- I would tell myself that. All of sudden all those small little comments about how I was always happy, contributed to the fear of never being good enough, or stupid.

From 7th grade on, I remained not only extremely timid, but became apologetic of the traits that had made me the person I am. The whole “Don’t talk so much”  solution never really never worked for me. How is it that the trait I once took so much happiness in being known for, humiliated me. I spent high school constantly worried about saying a word, though that never happened. Turning in essays with apology notes attached to it. I constantly had to remind those who mocked me that I wasn’t stupid.  Anxiety grew, yet I tried my hardest to keep that smile that so many people said made me so approachable. A kindness that also played a part  of people viewing me as vulnerable.

It was never about talking too much,  because as much as I tried to cover it up, I wore my personality on my sleeve. It was the assumptions that came with it and the intense insecurities followed by crippling anxiety I developed over the years. Once I got to college I was so beyond overwhelmed to introduce myself to anyone out of the fear of  that my new fellow classmates would find me unintelligent and unworthy of being in college at all. And some of them did;  one person guessed that I must have been a cheerleader in high school because I was just so incredibly perky. Another told me that I’m probably never going to be able to lead people properly because men would never take a girl like me seriously.

Perhaps my biggest fear was not that people believed that I’m an airhead, but it’s that my voice, my worth is never going to be seen as more than a bubbly bimbo who wouldn’t ever make it far in life. It started to seem that no one ever willing to look past me. And that my kindness would forever be something people take advantage. I’m too happy, too outgoing, too stupid

Half my life I believed that perhaps I was incapable and helpless to do anything right, but there’s something about looking at the world with the sense of hope that has brought me this far. Perhaps there are worse things to be called in life, and now I see maybe I shouldn’t ever take offense to those remarks- because sometimes when people tell you you’re too much of something, that’s exactly what you’re suppose to give to the world. Those who choose not to hear the words behind my smile or see the dedication and fighting spirit behind my actions- then they simply do not deserve my voice altogether.

Though I’ve grown, and many hoped, myself including myself, that maybe I would be a bit quieter as I grew up. However it wasn’t the quantity of my speech, but the quality that changed. See if my words are filled with courage and kindness than what more can I change. I’m never going to be a Stanford Grad or pass the LSATs; some days I can’t even walk without falling or crashing into others. Little things get me excited, I’m loud, I’m easily startled and  I’m often oblivious to things that are right in front of my face.  If people want to see me as dumb, that’s on them, I know I’m not and that true stupidity lies in the inability to have compassion and an open mind. My heart is full of so much love to spread, and I will continue use my voice in a fight for equality and to speak for those who feel like they have none. And I want to remind them, their voice, is the most powerful weapon someone can hold. Call me that loud overly opinionated feminist, or even stupid. However kindness is a gift. For so many people have the ability to make a change in the world with their talents but just walk on by, the chance to show kindness is truly a gift given and a gift to be shared.

“Yeah she talks a lot” I still will turn my head and freeze whenever I heard that comment, but those who choose to listen will know the words I say come with a purpose. My voice is my power, my ability and my strength that people have tried to play as my weakness.

I identify with Elle now and see her as a role model and motivation as I continue to move forward with my career.  My personality that caused so much anxiety, that people tried to turn into a negative ended up being the exact thing that landed me the job of my dreams at merely 20 years old. My new job with the Disneyland, though every role is a starring one, allows me to use my heart, and my voice, to create happiness. And though I still get fearful and doubtful every now and then of how people are going to see me, I know that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. I’m surrounded by a job that uses my best abilities to their advantage, and people who finally see my message behind my smile. As I continue to move forward with this company, I do want to be a leader. But what good is that power if i don’t use it to make a  positive and compassionate difference in my workplace, in my community, and to those in my life. I want my chance to make my difference as a leader and have my heart be my crowning glory.

 

“I’m sorry, I talk too much”

” No you don’t”

“You don’t have to sugarcoat it, I get excited easily- I know I always have a lot to say”

“I’m not sugarcoating anything; because you do talk a lot,

“Oh?”

“But not too much, never too much”

It’s all so clear, I’m where I’m meant to be.

Validation Not Needed

“Jaymeann, my dear, you should go back on your medication for anxiety and depression…”

I’ve been seeing “Mark” for about a month now and he’s already witnessed me go through so much in the past month: a car accident, a court case, and just about everything in between.

My time with him has been filled with such remarks. All ranging from the way I should grow my hair back out because he liked it more, to how I was always going to be seen as a sexual object to other men. Mark often told me I was far too naive for this world simply because of my optimistic attitude, and found every opportunity to talk over me and prove to me that he knew more about this world than me. There was an 8 year age difference between us, and he never once failed to mention that he was significantly more mature and more aware than I ever will be, telling me listening to heart was a sign of my immaturity and I would grow out of it.

But this comment really caught my attention. For a moment I was in awe of his concern. Thinking “wow, here’s someone looking at me with caring eyes, and wanting the absolute best for me.”

He continues

” You’re just far too worrisome, you need to take better care of yourself, for no one is going to want to be with a moody crazy bitch, no one is going to be able to handle it” He continues to speak, as if he knew every single one of my fears and had decided bring them all to life.

I’m speechless, I am angry, livid actually, and I look at him wanting to scream and unleash the wrath that he deserved. The audacity, to not only make comments and judgement about my mental well being but to assume that the actions I made were that to impress a man and that my I took care of myself purely to have validation in the world.

Yet, I stand there not saying a word.

“Fight, Jaymeann, fight, you’re angry, show it, you have every right to be.”

Do I though?

I realize, I’m mad at everything he doesn’t know.

Mark sees my silence as an opportunity to speak what he thinks to be true. But my silence to me is nothing but a reminder of the years I spent being told I wasn’t allowed to be angry, or at least I wasn’t allowed to show it. My anger wasn’t valid because the words that brought me down were spoken out of love ( which eventually I learned was not the case), as if it was suppose to justify their abusive actions. I didn’t have a voice, and I spent my nights writing my feelings whether it be of hurt or of happiness, in journals that I would hide under my bed. It was the only way I was able to say anything at all. But Mark doesn’t know that.

He is also completely unaware that despite how I felt about his words, I couldn’t help  but remember that he was in fact correct in my search for validation and that a  year ago when I had checked into therapy and started taking medication it was all in hopes to bring back a boy who no longer wanted to love me. He had instilled the fear in me that my new job was going to eat me alive and that he would have broken up with me sooner, but knew if he did, I would have been too anxious to go to my Disney interview. And now I was far too anxious to even begin. I wanted to change so all my new co-workers would like me but clearly I wanted to change for him as well.

Mark keeps talking, now saying that he’s only saying these things because he cares about me, but he’s also just not going to deal with me in this way. Every word out of his mouth is just another fear I’ve been telling myself can’t be true. “You’re not gonna be successful with your anxiety” “People are going to think that you can’t take care of yourself.” I ask myself if he doesn’t know why I’m angry, should I be?  But there’s so much more he doesn’t know.

He knows nothing about the strength and comfort I found in myself in the past year, and how I’ve discovered so much about myself. I was walking into a new job constantly replaying the words ” you’re too unstable for this” in my head and was overwhelmed before I even started. But with each new day, each friendly face I met and each step I took, I could walk into that same job and know this is exactly where I’m meant to be. I call Disneyland my home not because it is my life, but it saved my life. I slowly but surely found I no longer was shaking before I walked into a new room, changed my major and found a brand new career path that inspires me to wear a genuine smile every day because I get to do what I love. No longer did I care to make decisions over someone who walked away from my life.

Eventually I was able to forgave my abuser and find solace that my future isn’t going to be anything like their life is. Often I am called perky, giddy, and by Mark, naive; however to look at the world positively and with hope does not make me naive, but instead shows that I choose to live my life with the courage that tomorrow is going to be a better day. I’ve said good riddance to toxic people in my life and have surrounded myself with such wonderful and beautiful people., and have spent my time falling in love with the little things life had to offer me. I no longer ask for help in hopes that it will impress someone who doesn’t love me, nor do I hide my writing under my pillow where no one can see. I use my writing as my voice, and my passion for equality to speak for those who don’t have the chance. My words and my abilities are powerful.

I’ve spent the past year making sure that everyone knows what they feel and what they want to be, is valid; no else needs to tell them that for it to be true. Why should I allow myself to be contained the same walls I had been knocking down for others?

So yes I should be angry, And I have every right to be. I easily could have looked at my time with Mark as a step back in my journey, but I saw it as another lesson I needed to learn.

I’ve learned that I don’t think I’m best able to express my anger through loud voices or cruelty. Anger doesn’t need to be shouted to be seen or heard to even make a difference. I choose to use my anger to educate and make others aware not only the importance of equality, but why it’s important to always be a little kinder than necessary. Even to those who might not deserve it; I find they need it the most

Knowing that I no longer can spend my time with Mark and choosing my battles, I silently look up at him and kiss his cheek and I say nod in agreement. And with the help of a great friend of mine I was able to gain the strength to completely walk away from him the next day.

One might think I would have been disappointed in walking away silently but I didn’t forget that strong feeling of anger and violation; I use it as a motivation to live each day a little better and a little stronger.

My anxiety and depression are still a part of my life, but it is not a part of me. Some days are better than others, but I refuse to be defined by the bad days and more importantly I refuse to be defined by those who believe my actions should be made in order to please them.

One year ago today I was going to crash my car in the hopes that I would not make survive; I didn’t want to live anymore. I reached about 100mph before I started sobbing uncontrollably finally aware of what I was about to do and I finally pulled over to catch my breath and drove to my best friends house instead. Two days later I checked into therapy, and two weeks later I started working for Disney and started the best adventure of my life and remembered how wonderful it is to be alive. All the Marks in the world, may remind me of why I’m scared, but they aren’t going to take away the courage I have to keep on fighting.

So here’s to the past year of being alive.

I’m still here.I’m still alive, and I’m so incredible happy that I am.

 

 

Fall 2016

(Something I posted on facebook that I thought I should  share)

I almost flunked out of college my first year- to the point where I was highly debating just dropping out all together- I was depressed and didn’t see the point of me going to school or planning for a future, when it probably wasn’t going to take off anywhere. I felt very alone and isolated. I could go on, but to put it simply, I have lost all vision and motivation to keep moving forward; I was in a rut.

The end freshman year, I was almost positive I wasn’t going to be allowed back, but by some grace of God or pure luck, I ended up acing one of my 5 classes, ultimately saving myself from getting kicked out.

The following year I set up to do better,I sought out mental health , I changed my major, and had my friends keep me accountable. I found classes , and a job that I loved and set up a school/work schedule so it would be easier for me to study.
However another obstacle came in the way- due to my low GPA, I no longer met the standards to qualify for financial aid, I didn’t have the money to pay for any of my classes. This caused significant stress on me, resulting in me picking up more shifts and another job to pay off for school, and not enough time for me to actually study and take care of my schooling.
Plus the fact that I had to build my GPA back up- which was nearly impossible to do in just one semester alone ( so many courses to repeat ), so even though I finally began to do well in my classes, my GPA still wasn’t where it should be.

So many tears and sleepless nights were involved. I doubted myself, I constantly didn’t know if I could do it- and considered dropping out again, and just working full time

Towards the middle of second semester, I had to turn a few works of writing to my Comm professor. I’ve always loved writing, and have always wanted to incorporate that into any future career I will have.
He went out of his way to let me know that my articles were some of the best in the class and he wanted to work with me on getting my work published- I’ve always thought I was a good writer, but here was a professional journalist himself, telling me the same thing. He wanted to help me become a better writer.
And it was that reminder that I’m in school not just to take tests and get good grades, but to build my skill as a writer, as a human, to learn about the world and how I can use my words, and my voice to change it. I am powerful, I am intelligent, and I’m not going to let my worth be determined by an education system that tells their students they aren’t smart because they can’t answer the correct response in a multiple choice test. This is where I want to be, this is where I’m going to grow, and it doesn’t matter if the world is working against me, the fact that I’m continuing to go to school and fight until I get my degree is all that matters
At the end of last semester, I was just barely making ( actually crawling ) to the finish line, but I did finish. That’s all that matters

And here I am about to enter my third year of college, finally at a GPA that not only meets CSUF’s standards, but mine as well. I quit my second job to make time for now my TWO majors, that I’m absolutely in love with( Entertainment/ Tourism and American Studies), and I’m happy with my current job. I’m surrounded by the best of friends who are walking with me in this everyday, and by inspiration of others who never gave up on their education even when it seemed like there was no way they could go on.
And to my dear friends, my favorite girls and For everyone else who have stood by my side the last 3 years I thank you and I love you all. It’s going to be rough the next couple of years, but I just keep telling myself to look where I am, and to remember where I started.

Fall 2016 I’m coming for you, and I’m so ready, and I’m going to keep moving forward
“I’m not throwing away my shot ”
Not this time. Not ever

Hamilton Revolution

Someone rather close to me asked me today,” What is the big deal about Hamilton anyways”
I said ” Beside it’s breathtaking and clever soundtrack, amazing acting, choreography and staging, I think what made Hamilton such a hit was it’s racially inclusive”
” Okay but you know that during the casting they specifically said they were looking for non- white actors?”
“Yes and I think that’s wonderful”
“You really have become a liberal white hating racist haven’t you.  You’re just another white hating socialist [which wasn’t even the end of their rant, but hey ]

Okay I’m going to step aside from the horrible comment for a moment and break it down why the casting for Hamilton was NOT racist action.
Throughout the history of Hollywood and Broadway shows have repeatedly been filled with people of white descent, to the point (which is even still true today, hence the popular hashtag #OscarsSoWhite ) that roles written about people of color have been filled by white actors, while roles given to actors of color tend to only portray stereotypes or historical roles
The argument has always been ” well the best person for the job should get it” And that’s true, but what happens more often than not is no one even bothers to look for the actors of color to play those parts, making POCs feel like they aren’t needed and unwanted in the industry. There’s a whole pyramid of decisions and mindsets that need to be changed
When Lin- Manuel Miranda got the inspiration for Hamilton, a penniless immigrant who made it in America, he found the best way to do a modern version of the story would be to use the voice of immigrants today. Yes the historical characters of Hamilton were white, yet he chose to use actors of color not to spite white people, but because he thought the immigrants, enlighterners, and people who were striving for a revolution in 1776, could best be told by people of color who are trying to do the same 2016. This blind casting has shown that actors of color don’t have to stick to their traditional roles society has given them because of how they look.

I’m sorry to any white actors who may feel like they are being left out of this stunning musicals, but realize that there significantly more opportunities for you both on Broadway ( any Roger/Hammerstein, Sondheim, Weber, Fossie, even my favorite musicals: Chicago and Finding Neverland) and in Hollywood.
The inclusiveness of Hamilton should’t be seen as an act against white people, but as an opportunity for those who haven’t had the chance to ever be the leading star because no one else was looking for someone like them. Representation matters, because now so many aspiring young writers, actors, dancers, etc are starting to see that it absolutely can be them working in the Broadway, and hopefully movie industry as well. And not just as another token or type casted role
Hamilton is more than a big deal, it’s a revolution, it’s changing the face of Broadway as we know it to be, and this is only the beginning.

Addendum: I am unashamedly a liberal feminist, who just wants equality and representation.
As hamilton said ” I will not equivocate on my opinion, I have always worn it on my sleeve… I don’t want to fight but I won’t apologize for doing what’s right”