Grown Up at Eight: A Short Childhood

“I want to move into an apartment because I can make friends there!” I said excitedly as we passed by a large, two-story building.

It was difficult to ignore the smiles and laughter as siblings and friends– kids my age– crowded the sidewalk after school. As an only child, I desperately wished to be like the other children in the neighborhood.

Within two years, that dream came true and it wasn’t what I had expected. Mom and I moved out of our three-bedroom house to a single-bedroom apartment.

I regret what I had said instantly. I miss watching TV on the brown living room carpet and running from there out to the vegetable patch in the front yard. I also miss eating ice-cream with mom under the cool summer breeze. Most importantly, I miss having freedom and a roof over our heads to call our own.

Sacrificing all of that, mom worked long shifts at the salon and resumed the rest of her day helping me with homework. I was too young without anyone else to watch over me, so mom often picked me up from school and brought me to the salon.

It was hard on her, of course, and I am thankful for everything she has done for me. I knew she was a wonderful mom even at that age.

Meanwhile, this was also when I began to hide a lot about myself. Because I was out in public, whatever I said and did became my sole responsibility.

I had to be on my best behavior in front of mom’s clients, who occasionally brought their children over to play. Of course, it also hindered my ability to socialize among my peers.

I never truly fit in. I still don’t.

Because of the environment I was raised in, I’ve lived more than one-third of my life behind a mask. I fear failure and I am afraid to disappoint my mom, who means the world to me. After all, I am her hopes and dreams– the one she has to rely on.

I’ve forgotten how to feel a wide range of emotions and I sometimes don’t know how to think for myself. All of these things are partially why I feel really anxious often– if not daily.

As a woman in her mid-20’s, I share a lot more common with friends ten years older than me. I’ve yet to enter the world and I’m already thinking about settling down and being able to afford a house.

I know these are material things that will allow us to be a little more comfortable, but they are part of a bigger dream. I think I’m starting to figure out what happiness means…

Spinning Out of Control: When The World Comes Crashing Down

My head keeps spinning and I’m starting to lose track of time. As of the past few weeks, I’ve been facing the reality of losing my one and only job as a cashier. I now spend the majority of my time applying for jobs left and right. If not that, then I network with people on LinkedIn or the ones I meet through work.

As soon as I get home from my evening and night shifts, I’m as good as a vegetable. These past three days have only presented themselves as a litmus test as I barely manage to get home by 9 p.m. at the very least. Somehow, I manage to find time to work with my editor-in-chief from my new magazine internship.

I’ve only joined within the past week-and-a-half and already, she seems pretty understanding of it all. Today, however, stressed me out in so many ways. As soon as I woke up, I submitted my 11th job application this past month, took their 10-minute assessment, and started working on an assignment for my internship.

But every step I took backfired and I made mistakes that cost me an hour or two of productivity. Time flew by before I even realized that my deadline was tomorrow, not in two days.

I’m trying to do as much as I can with my current situation. As I began to type the first paragraph of this blog post, my boyfriend called back to talk some sense into me. While all of the above is important, I have to drop one thing off of my schedule— applying for another job on my own.

I have to agree, I’ve submitted as many as I could already. Except for the applications I’m about to submit with the help of a friend I’ll call “S,” who I thank from the bottom of my heart.

Aside from that, I’ll just have to figure out how to balance everything else. It’s amazing how crying and talking over the phone can change your day. I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m not going to give up!

What to expect when getting laid off

I never expected to lose my job this way. Sure, you hear about it happening on the news, but you never really think it could happen to you. I found out less than 24 hours ago, just as I was about to end my shift and leave for the day.

“I really don’t know how to do this any better,” my boss said before announcing to our entire team that we’ll be laid-off within the next couple of months. I turn to a younger woman sitting to my right, who appears to be in shock. “It’s going to be okay,” I tell her as I pat her shoulder and give her a hug.

To my right is a gentleman who seems to he taking the news a little harder. He has to go home and try to explain this to his family. The rest of the group never looked so lifeless. There were a couple of people, on the other hand, who tried to add bits of humor here and there as this meeting came to an end.

I waited for the group to disperse before walking up to my boss. “You did good,” I told him. “Thank you for telling us in person and not over the phone. Before you process all of this, just remember that it didn’t have anything to do with you. People are going to be upset at the situation, so don’t take it personally. You have to be strong when you announce this tomorrow. Don’t show it.”

“We’re both young. We have our whole lives ahead of us,” he says before giving me a hug. With me being half his height, you couldn’t tell who was being consoled.

I head over to the time clock to finally log myself out for the day. On my way toward the exit, I ask the assistant manager how she’s doing. For someone who’s spent nearly half of her life in this occupation it must be a blow. Of course she’s having a hard time processing it!

As I drive over to my boyfriend’s house, I couldn’t help but wonder about how this could impact some of my coworkers. One is trying to support her family, the other appears to be living alone and so-and-so’s got an elderly mother to care for.

I turn into the driveway as I approach the house. As I hug my boyfriend, tears begin to stream down my face. “Thank you for sharing this with me. This is the best news I could’ve gotten! You didn’t get fired or leave, but you got laid off. It won’t negatively impact you the next time you apply for another job. If anything, the past several months should’ve boosted your confidence.”

“You’re right!” I think to myself. So here I am writing this blog after re-vamping my résumé. For the past five months, I’ve boosted my confidence and acquired new skills that will help me in any field that I pursue. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way and I know that there will be many more that I’ll meet in the future. I’m already looking forward to my next adventure!

What it’s like to live in the past, present & future all at once

For 25 years I’ve survived many days but none so bittersweet as the one I’m living through right now. I’m currently sitting at a food court at CSULB, where I find myself traveling through pivotal moments in time. 

It was at this very spot where I frequently stopped by as a college student. I remember cramming in as much material as I could process and studying late into the night with my best friend Steph. 

I remember living in the present as opposed to planning for the future, especially as far as career prospects went for that matter. I had never planned to live this long, yet here I was. 

I knew that ideally, I’d want to get my Journalism degree first, but I could never focus on what I wanted to do beyond that. I had just transferred in as a junior and I already wanted to drop out. After a brief discussion with one of my professors, he urged me to do otherwise, so I stayed. 

As my senior year approached, I took a broadcasting course, where I was assigned to read Anderson Cooper’s Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of Wars, Disaster and Survival. Albeit a well-written book, I knew it was just a glimpse into the life of war correspondence. 

A career path that I’ve been considering since then because honestly, that may be where the real news is. Behind-the-scenes footage galore with a fate that lies heavily on the Gods who run today’s pop culture and cable T.V. 

Do I choose between fulfilling my role as an only child or to pursue one of many dangerous career paths? Especially now that I’m beginning to want a family of my own? Is war correspondence my ONLY interest as far as journalism goes?

Yet, here I am at the food court, a little over a year since I had graduated from here, reading Ron Kovic’s Hurricane Street and eyeing Carolyn M. Edy’s The Woman Correspondent, the U.S. Military, and the Press.

I figured I should catch up on some reading before meeting a career counselor now that I’m on campus. I had received these books not too long ago by an acquaintance named Robe. Enclosed in the last book is a letter he wrote that ends with, “Hope to read your work someday.” Hence why today is so bittersweet.

Correction: I no longer have free access to career counceling.

When Life Goes As Planned: What Education Really Gets You Part 1

My life is going according to plan, except I didn’t plan it. At least, not everything. For as long as I could remember, I always carried one goal throughout my life. Buy a house. Whether that meant occupying it with a family of my own or a bunch of cats, I was perfectly happy with the idea of reaching that goal alone. But I knew that I lacked the resources to get my foot into the door.

So unlike the majority of my childhood classmates who became gang-affiliated, juvenile delinquents and teenage parents, I decided to continue my education past high school. Facing those odds was one thing, but getting past them is another. And it all seemed pretty slim at the moment, but I was determined. I’d also like to take a moment to add that I respect the life decisions of the people who still struggle to overcome those same issues today.

I got denied from all of the universities that I applied to. I barely remember them now. What I do remember was betting all of my odds on getting into the California State University of Dominguez Hills. I remember that moment the most because I got denied even though it was my “safe bet.” I was confident and arrogant in thinking that I’d at least make it there as opposed to entering CSU Long Beach, which also denied me earlier that semester.

Okay, so I got denied by all of the universities that I applied to, but I wasn’t going to giving up! I enrolled myself into El Camino Community College six months after graduating high school and chose Journalism as my major.

Just go to school, get out of the dumps and get your head in the game, I thought. From there, my life began to pick up one night in the Fall of 2010. Hours had passed while I scrolled down the list of majors on the ECC website.

And in all honesty, nothing really jumped out to me. The only major that I could relate to was Journalism. It was that or take English. Art classes couldn’t guarantee my financial stability in the future, so I made an effort to choose something that would help me become marketable. And boy, was I wrong.

A Transition Into Living Color

It was as dark as night, hidden within mom’s beige, built-in apartment closet. Black and grey clothes hung here and there, peppering our entire wardrobe collection. Back when I wanted to wear clothes that were as dark as my mood. And it all began in the early 2000s. I was just a teenager when, to mom’s dismay, I began to rebel via wardrobe malfunction and a complete change in color scheme.

Way back when rhinestones, glitter, leopard prints and rainbow tie-dyed everything competed with metal spikes, long, black midi skirts and fishnet tank-tops. I shudder to think about it now.

But that was my way of expressing myself. My way of hinting at those dark, deep thoughts that lead to symptoms of depression and eventually, lead to suicidal tendencies. The types of struggles that can hardly be put into words. Black and grey fit me as comfortably as skin-tight jeans. They just felt good. Up until this point, my life wasn’t so colorful.

But that changed the very moment I began my last semester at university in the spring of 2017. I’ve found no reason to brood over the past and have learned to let go of old grudges. I’ve graduated from college, found a job and have managed to maintain fulfilling relationships with friends and family.

And did I mention family? Yeah, I’ve found that I want to have one of my own. Right now, I’m happy and optimistic. I’m only just starting to find many reasons to live. Words a teenage Diane would’ve have never associated herself with. Or the colorful wardrobe sprinkled with dresses and pastels in pink and blue. With me, what you see is what you get. I’m wearing my heart out.

I’m Another Caged Bird Who Sings

Up until about two years ago, I used to poke fun at the very idea of writing a journal entry. Until one night, for no reason in particular, when I gave it a shot and spilled out all of the thoughts that I had kept bottled up inside of me.

Each night, I wrote one note after another, adding them to a pile of entries or turning them into sad songs. Sometimes I simply tossed them out into the ether and sometimes I buried these feelings deep down in my heart. As I was doing this, I slowly felt all of the weight on my shoulders lighten up.

So I kept writing and writing about depression until last year in late January, when my life made a complete turn-around.

I started dating my wonderful boyfriend and for the first time in my entire life, I felt all of my problems solve themselves out naturally. Ever since entering my life, my boyfriend has given me a chance to live outside of of the rough world that I’m still trapped in.

When I’m with him, I can put my guard down and speak my mind. I don’t have to play those silly games where you talk over each other in order to share your opinions. I’m free to share my deepest fears and feel all of the warmth that I’ve never thought I’d find in someone else.

Today, I’m happy, fulfilled and living in a way I’ve never pictured before. I’m finally a little more free from those petty mind tricks that I face almost every single day. The ones where people have to one-up and pressure each other just for sport. The ticking-time-bomb-wannabes, who are ready to blow up with the slightest touch just because they feel like it.

Because they don’t care about what you have to say. It’s a rough environment to live in. I’ve watched relationships go from stale to abusive and I’ve seen people lose their minds trying to get out of here. Everything is flaming-hot or ice-cold because there’s rarely anything in-between.

After more than 20 years of living on this spec of dust, I’ve finally found a place where the sun shines all year round and the grass is literally much greener. The songs that I sing now are about a world isn’t entirely a bad place at all.