Suffering in Silence

We are all familiar with the adage: you never know what someone is experiencing, so it’s important to be kind. This cautionary piece of advice couldn’t be more true for me today. There are special people in my life experiencing severe trauma and pain. Many of these people are pillars in their community, functioning at a high level and excelling in ways that most people could never achieve. Yet, behind the success, there seems to a masked version of their real life, only visible to a certain number of people.

Maybe because I’m a teacher or because I have been told that I have an open spirit, but lately folks in my life have come to me, revealing their secrets and struggles, and while they are not looking for a solution, in some ways I feel responsible to help them. I’m not a therapist or have any kind of technical training, so my help can be very limited. I think the best thing I can offer, besides being a comforting ear, is the remind people to be kind to others. We really don’t know what people are experiencing. We can only imagine. So, if you find yourself at the airport, grocery store, park or any where surrounded by others, the simple thing you can do is smile and be kind. Believe me, these small acts of kindness go a very long way.

New year, new me

It would be nice to say that 2023 began in a healthy, relaxing and peaceful way. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. My husband and I were affected by the nationwide airline flight cancellations, so we were “stuck” in the bay area for a week longer than we had planned. When we finally arrived home, it was New Year’s Eve and I ended up getting sick, so we had to cancel plans with our friends. Then just this past week, I experienced a hives episode where the welts were so itchy and enflamed that I had to take over the counter allergy medicine. Even with the medication, they didn’t subside till two days later. This is not how I imagined the new year would begin.

However….

There is good news to embrace! One of my main goals for this year was to start a completely different professional journey. While I enjoyed the last 15 years of my life teaching middle and high school students, I wanted to focus more on writing and teaching ESL for adults. I started applying for jobs earlier this month, and yesterday I accepted an ESL instructor role to teach online. While I am nervous about this new job, I know that this is a new chapter that will help me with my professional goals of teaching community college or post secondary education. As far as writing, I am back to posting blogs and I submitted an application to Kundiman. This will be my 3rd time applying, and I am expecting that it will be a no, but that doesn’t mean that I will give up. It’s no news that I’ve been having a hard time finding the joy in life. I spoke and wrote about this feeling of “emptiness” during the pandemic, which was the main reason why I started to blog regularly. The things I once found comfort in such as reading, writing, hiking, traveling, spending time with friends, didn’t have the same effect on me. But I haven’t given. It’s important to search for the joy- not search for the forlorn or sorrow.

I’m COVID positive

My COVID experience started on September 2, 2021, when I made a comment to my co-worker that I might not come to work tomorrow because my throat felt a little sore. It was very minor- just a scratchy sensation. I had been testing students one-on-one the last two weeks, so I assumed it was the overuse of my voice, or my body adjusting to going back to work, wearing my mask for long hours. The next day, more symptoms developed: congestion, body aches, tiredness, which felt normal because I associated them with my recurring sinus infection. On Sunday I spoke to the Kaiser advice nurse, on Monday I spoke to the doctor who expedited a COVID test. On Tuesday morning I took my test, and that night I received my results. It was positive. By then, when I lost my sense of smell and taste, I already had an inclining that I had COVID. The test confirmed it. Turns out, I probably had COVID sometime at the end of August, then symptoms developed 3-5 days later, and I didn’t test ‘till three days after that. It’s easy to see how the virus spreads so quickly.

You hear how unpredictable COVID is, how it affects people differently, how there is no definite way to predict how your body will respond. I know many people who survived COVID, but I also knew a few people who didn’t. I wondered where I would fall on the spectrum. I wondered if my asthma, my weight, my thyroid would affect my experience. When I developed a form of pink eye on the 5th day, I cautioned if my symptoms would unexpectedly turn severe like other cases I read about.

I don’t know how I contracted COVID. There’s a myriad of sources- my husband went to the dentist, I work at two schools where the students are not old enough to get the vaccine, my brother-in law visited one day. I wear a mask, I’m vaccinated and I’m as safe as I can be in public settings. But with COVID, especially with Delta we know it spreads faster and it’s more infectious than the outset of the pandemic. I believe my breakthrough COVID case was bound to happen; it was just a matter of time. It is also worrisome that at my schools, it seems as if there is a positive COVID case everyday; students are in the hallways sitting next to a garbage can, vomiting. The outdoor isolation tent seems to have students daily, waiting for a parent to pick him/her up. When I see students playing, hear them laughing, or witness them smiling with their eyes, it’s easy to forget that we’re in a pandemic, and it seems like kids at school is the right decision, but when COVID cases rise and as I see adults and students get sick and the after effects of COVID unknown, I’ve decided that school is probably not the safest place for people to be, especially those unvaccinated. I’m lucky that when I return to my job, my interaction with people will be limited, and I’m taking it one day at a time.


The support from friends and family, the daily calls, check ins or even the delivery of organic Gatorade from a dear friend were sources of comfort for me. I was also surprised with the care I received from Kaiser. They sent me a care package complete with high grade cleaning solution, sanitizer, alcohol wipes, body wash, shampoo, condition, face masks, gloves, eating utensils, plates, cups, even a thermometer. Although I had most of the items at home, it was reassuring to know that in all aspects of my life, including my health care, everything was easy so I could just focus on my health and healing. Even when I was contacted by Contra Costa County they offered to do the trace contact on my behalf and asked if I needed help financially and with food preparation. I wondered about all the people who were affected at the onset of the pandemic, when a lot was unknown, when the system and after care weren’t as robust, how lonely and frustrating and expensive it might have been, especially the immediate hours after testing positive. It’s an odd time. Many thoughts run through your head and the imagination runs wild. The care I received from my circle, including the County and Kaiser made things feel less helpless, less overwhelmed, less like I was a statistic. This was the care I received for my case; I only hope others receive the same care, especially those with more severe cases.

There’s a mental condition called Survivor’s Guilt , where a person who survived a life threatening situation, while others did not feels guilty for surviving. Many people have experienced this in traumas we’re familiar with such as 9/11, Pulse nightclub, a car accident, Cancer, and most recently COVID. While my COVID case was relatively mild compared to others, I do wonder about those who weren’t so lucky, particularly family members who died because of COVID. Some didn’t live long enough for the vaccine to become available to them, so by chance and by time, I was fortunate to have a chance simply because of a timeline. It could also be because I haven’t eaten meat in over a year, or that I received both vaccines of the Moderna, it could also be because my family prayed for me and my mother in law added our names to a congregation of nuns who prayed for us. Who knows why I was lucky and relatively unscathed. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge those who had a different experience, those who needed a pacemaker after COVID, those whose sense of taste never returned after COVID, those who will have life long lung issues after COVID.

And it wasn’t just me who tested positive. My husband, my brother-in-law and two other people , including a friend’s children, tested positive. It was clear that our 6 degrees of separation had been compromised. Could I have been the COVID culprit? Probably. Most likely. The conditions at my school make it the obvious answer. And I carry a lot of guilt for that possibility. It is wild when I think about it. How a simple action turned into something possibly life threatening. We found humor in the situation though. We jokingly thought about having a quarantine routine or eating an entire onion or durian. And I affectionately referred to us as the COVID Crew. My mother in law, in jest, said something to the effect of: “I can’t believe all my children have COVID all at the same time”. But it all turned serious when my niece all of a sudden had a fever of 103 and then my sister developed flu-like symptoms, the possibility of spreading the virus to them became even more severe. My niece is only three. She’s lived most in her life in the pandemic, and it didn’t seem fair that she was a bystander of poor actions. They ended up testing negative; which was a huge relief, but the guilt ensued. I was sorry and sad. I’m grateful that my family has been kind, understanding and has found humor in a grave situation. I love them very much.

As of today, day 10 of my quarantine, the only symptoms I feel are fatigue, loss of smell and taste and a slight congestion. My days are strange. I haven’t been outside since September 2, and I have urges to take long naps throughout the day. I miss my hikes; I miss my family; I miss my tastebuds. I don’t find pleasure in the things I’ve taken for granted like eating, drinking, or smelling my favorite perfume, a home cooked meal or the wonderful outdoors. I think about the possible long term effects I might endure like COVID brain fog or a persistent disorienting metallic taste in my mouth. I think about the last flavorful thing I ate: a nori roll wrap with sunflower seed pate, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, avocado. I think about the email I got from work urging me to take advantage of mental health services they are offering for free.

I go back to work tomorrow (Tuesday, September 14), and it will be 13 days since I set foot on campus. I’m looking forward to putting this behind me, but I do worry that COVID might make its way back, like others I read about who had COVID twice, like the CDC study in Kentucky. The most I can do is take the same precautions I took before: sanitize, wear a mask, physical distance, wash my hands, get tested regularly. But even with all of that in place, the chances are still there, albeit significantly less, but still there. What I’ve learned from this situation is that being infected with COVID means different things for everyone. Cases vary in degrees and people respond differently- socially, emotionally, mentally, physically. I think about the positives: the support of family and friends. The surprising outreach from work, Contra Costa County and Kaiser Permanente. It seems once you test positive,all hands and feet are on deck and on the ground and an army of people are there to help with the process. I’m thankful for the vaccine; I am assuming it prevented my symptoms from escalating and me being admitted to the hospital. I’m grateful to all of you who have also chosen to get vaccinated as well; it may have saved your life and others. If you are still considering not getting the vaccine, which is now approved by the FDA, I hope my experience encourages you to reconsider or at the very least to have a conversation with those around you, especially those who you love. Being positive affects your entire community. Even if you live alone, if you step foot outside your door, you’re impacting life all around you and there’s a strong possibility that your actions might impact the health of another person. I honor each person’s individual choice and what is best for you and your family. But after experiencing this and contending with all the possible outcomes that could have been, it would be irresponsible of me to not share this story, my story. A possible life may depend on it. And that’s a chance I’m not willing to take. Stay safe and thank you for reading.

Care package from Kaiser
Pink eye photo
One of the fun the things I looked forward to was the phonecalls with my niece and using the filters
The last flavorful meal I had on Friday September 3

Valentine’s Weekend

My husband and I usually don’t participate in celebrating Valentine’s Day the traditional way. But we do like to keep up with our traditions, namely because it gives us something to look forward to the beginning of the year. Over the years, January has been a difficult month because a lot of people we love have passed away this time of the year. In February, we like to reflect on life and appreciate our blessings. On Valentine’s Day we honor our traditional love languages: we gift each other with food and things that we think will make us stronger- individually and together. This year I asked my hubby to join me on a hike, even though I know this is not the kind of activity he prefers. He often complains and makes excuses like his ankles hurt or that his fingers hurt. But this weekend, he joined me on a hike and what was more thoughtful was that he didn’t hesitate. He understands that my love language isn’t material things but offering support. In turn, I gifted my husband a pair of ipods. I know this is isn’t the most romantic gift, but I know my hubby is looking for motivation to jump rope consistently, and I know music helps him achieve this, so it was worth the investment.

After the hike, we drove to Oakland and picked up a combo meal from Vegan Mob.

I know this isn’t’ the typical way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or maybe it is. What ever the case, happy Valentine’s Day, no matter if you celebrate it or how you celebrate it. Continue to do the things that are meaningful for you, every day.

Four teachers affected by COVID

I was facilitating a training on zoom today, and when the last teacher we were waiting on joined the call, although we could only see her face virtually, it was very clear that she was under distress. The other teacher asked her if she was ok and without hesitation, she immediately began crying. I didn’t know the teacher very well, unlike the other two teachers, so I just listened as they carefully broached her. It was then that the teacher revealed that she just found out that both of her parents tested positive for COVID. What was worse about the situation was that the father had contracted it at work, where eight people also became effected.

The teacher went into details that included why the father was still working, that they lived in a small town in a different state and before the positive results, months ago, had already decided that they weren’t traveling to the Bay Area for the holidays– it was too risky.

Some time during the conversation it dawned on me how each of us on the call had been affected by COVID. While we weren’t tested positive, our lives, though vastly different were suffering in some ways.

As you know, for me, COVID and the pandemic, affected me two months into sheltering in place. My husband was furloughed and eventually let go and because we were down to one income, we made the decision to move to the east bay. If I have to return to work, my previous 2 mile commute will now change to a 45 mile commute. On a good day, I’ll be lucky if the travel to and from work will be under two hours. There is the other possibility of me getting a different job, something closer to home. While this may be an exciting opportunity, it really saddens me because working in South San Francisco has been my dream job.

Then there’s teacher #2 who has to manage working and providing child care for her two boys. She and her husband both have very demanding jobs and between the two of them, they have to schedule meetings, find quiet spaces in the house, arrange time to share the working computer all while feeding, disciplining, watching, and playing with their sons. She confessed to me at the end of the school year in distance learning that she felt she was failing. She shared tears on that call too. I managed to tell her that we know she’s doing the best she can do. Still, there was something in her voice that let me know that she felt like she needed to more, even though I reassured her that we are all adjusting, and that what she was doing at work and at home was more than what anyone could expect during this very complicated time.

The other teacher brought up how not seeing her students has greatly affected her. She also confessed that for some people, sheltering in place in isolation is too much for a single person. Going months without talking to another individual, in person, including her students made her feel more alone.

There we were, on the zoom call, through our computer screens, four women, talking about the different ways COVID had affected our lives. In that moment, I had never felt more connected with a group of people I barely even knew.

My ancestors

Today I attended the Pinayista Summit — “a weekend gathering of pinays in the hustle filled with speakers, panels, lightning talks, interactive workshops, music, sporadic dancing, and meaningful connections.” I wanted to join this summit because I’ve had a trying and challenging 8 weeks at work I needed space to be held by a community and creatives. I desperately needed this experience.

There were many moments in the summit that were valuable and memorable, but one in particular was during the Healing Racial Trauma In Our Bodies & Bloodlines workshop with Chanel Durley from 33 and Rising. Here’s more about the workshop:

“For many of us, the last few months has been triggering on a deep emotional level. As we commit to learning and doing the inner work of being Anti-racist, many are feeling paralyzed by the emotions and realizations that are coming to the surface. The fact of the matter is, we can’t talk about Race without bringing up Trauma – The Trauma of old memories, past lived experiences and the Generational Trauma that has been passed down to us from our Ancestors. But if these traumas can be passed down, so can our healing. In this workshop, we will dive deeper into Healing Racial Trauma in our bodies with a focus on Identity. We will explore the effects of White body supremacy mindset, and how we are all complicit in adopting this mindset in society. We’ll end with a short active Breathwork meditation. When we heal ourselves, we heal the generations that have come before us, and the generations that will come after us. This workshop will arm you with innate tools and knowledge to integrate healing in your body as you continue on in this Revolution.”

As you can see, it was a very deep and transformative session, one that literally left me shaking and breathing deeply, in healthy and healing ways. At the onset, I called my ancestors Lolo Imo and Lola Connie to help me prepare for the moment. I didn’t necessary grow up with Lolo Imo and Lola Connie. but I have pivotal memories that included them during my primal years. Lola Connie lived with us when she was diagnosed and battling Cancer. Father Imo died in his sleep one morning in the summer. I was the second person to find him. The first was his wife, my grandmother, Lola Tad, who shook me awake and asked me to “wake up, Grandpa.” When I saw him lying on the bed, mouth slightly agape, I instinctively knew something was wrong. Minutes later, when the ambulance arrived, they couldn’t resuscitate him and pronounced him dead. M grandmother, with her limited English, didn’t understand. It was one of the hardest, most difficult, most traumatic memories in my life. Till this day, my husband is still not allowed to sleep before me, an agreement I set early on in our relationship since my lolo’s death has ultimately triggered the way I view sleep and rest.

I bring this up because one of the statements that Chanel brought up was:

“You are your ancestors’ wildest dream”

I don’t know if Chanel is the original person to have said this quote, but I heard it the first time from her, so I’m giving her full credit.

When I think about the purpose of my life and the achievements, large or small, I’ve achieved in my life, I wonder if that is what my ancestors, specifically my Lola and Lola had in mind as they fought cancer, as they slumbered and took their last breath. Am what I’m doing now worthy of their life struggles? Did everything they did in life to guarantee the success of their children, which led to the trajectory of my life, honor them by the way I lived my life? It’s a question I’ve asked myself before Chanel’s workshop but given the quote and wisdom Chanel shared, I examined the answer a little differently.

According to Chanel, she said that we must release this burden from ourselves.We must replace that burden with acknowledgement and full sincerity, meaning we have to let go of their survival and acknowledge that your ancestors did this for you to be here today! In those words, I reckoned with this guilt and shame that I carried in my body, specifically in my lower belly where trauma and stress live. I realized that my lolo and lola didn’t put any expectation on me to carry out a certain fulfillment. Besides, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to honor the sacrifices they made in life, for the sake of my and my family’s well- being. I can be successful and be a millionaire yet that still doesn’t seem like the most apt and significant ways to honor my ancestors and their struggles. This also doesn’t necessarily mean that I shouldn’t apply myself either. When I look at my life, sure there are many aspects that I can work on — like owning a house, having a child, saving more money. But overall I’m thriving. I feel it in my body and in my heart. I have a safe space to call home. I have a loving and supportive husband. I read and write, and at times I have the privilege of sharing my work in places I never dreamed to be a part of. I have a few things published in the literary world and hold a graduate degree in Creative Writing. I mention these things not to gloat, but rather to recognize that for a person who’s entire family spoke a different language and attended school at a certain grade, it is quite glorious to be able to say that in my small ways I carry my ancestors through words and wisdom. These might not equate to monetary success, but I am remarkably valiant and hopeful that my ancestors are proud of me.

My lolo Imo

Death comes in threes

They say death comes in threes, and today I was gravely reminded of this omen. When I woke up, I scrolled on Facebook and saw that a friend’s sister had gotten her tombstone engraved. The headstone said that she was a mother, nurse, sister, daughter and friend. I didn’t know her well, but I remembered her bright smile and silky black hair. Then in the middle of the day, when I had a few minutes between meetings, I scrolled on to Facebook again and saw that a fundraiser had been organized for an 11-year old boy who recently passed away. He was diagnosed with cancer in February and fought through the doctor visits, sleepless nights and unbearable pain. When I clicked on the link, the $25,000 goal was near its target, even only having a day’s notice. I didn’t know the young boy, but at 11- years old, he could have easily been one of my future students. Then later that night, as I was winding down on the couch, I scrolled on Instagram and saw that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend had lost their baby. There were complications that forced her to go to the hospital, and after severe bleeding, their son didn’t survive. I stared at the black and white picture of her sitting on a hospital bed with the starched sheets wrapped around her tiny son in her embrace while John sobbed into Chrissy, his head pressed against her eyebrow, his lips on her arm.

The news of death in one day certainly puts things in perspective. Today, I experienced one of the most challenging professional days in my career. In short, a principal complained to my directors about his dismay about my performance and lack of support. My director called a meeting and ultimately offered her support, but I know she was disappointed in me and expressed that I needed to listen and focus to repair the situation. This weighed heavy on me all day, as this was the first time I’ve felt “reprimanded” for a job I felt strongly about. I felt shame and discouragement, letting the situation overcome my thoughts. Even when my sister, her boyfriend, niece and brother came over for dinner, I didn’t feel present– the trepidation from the day clouded my mind.

Yet, as I write this and I think about the three omens that anchored my day from this morning, to the late afternoon, to the evening, I’m reminded that a “bad” day at work is nothing compared to the loss of a sister, a student or a son. Sure we all have heavy, troublesome days, we might even be chided by our superiors, but when I think about the days that others are fighting, I’d be remised if I didn’t acknowledge their strength , their struggles and their loss. Yes, there’s many things I can certainly complain about, but a loss is not one of them. If I did, I wouldn’t have anything to gain.

My niece at dinner today. One of the rare moments I was actually engaged.

A lesson from a stranger

It’s been a busy few days, since I officially moved on Saturday, so I haven’t had time to post on my blog. Today, I made a concerted effort to get back to writing because of a gentle reminder from my new neighbor, Julietta. Julietta is a Filipina in her early 60s, twice divorced, with two married sons living in Las Vegas. She has five grandchildren– the oldest is seventeen and the youngest is five. I share these details with you because I feel like Julietta will be a person in my life that I will write about regularly. When Julietta knocked on my door, unannounced at 9:30 PM today, her hair was in a bun and secured with a bedazzled clip; she wore a bell sleeved top with starched white wide pants. Her fingernails were painted a metallic color, and she wore sandals that had a big gold bow. When she laughed, she slapped her knee and fanned the air. From afar, she looked like one of my students. But up-close, with no make up, while she didn’t look her age, her face was alert, like she had experienced many lives and knew many secrets. Within five minutes of pleasantries and introductions, she offered to bring a bottle of wine with grapes and cheese. I said sure, assuming she was referring to another night, but I was mistaken. She meant tonight– as in right now. My first thought was my 8:30 meeting tomorrow morning, in which I will be presenting to the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, so obviously I needed to be well prepared. The idea of polishing off a bottle of wine with someone who I barely knew and old enough to be my mother but dressed like a younger version of me, seemed like the most irresponsible thing to do. But when Julietta smiled and said she just got off work and did a little shimmy with her shoulders, there was something about her candor I couldn’t resist. I said Ok and went to the kitchen and rinsed off the wine glasses that had been collecting dust.

The visit with Julietta ended up being very interesting. I found out that she is a care taker, and her entire day revolves around people dying. For a person to be around death for over 20 years, I imagined she’d be more cynical and depressed. But actually, she is the complete opposite: she lives simply and appreciates every meal; she doesn’t go a day without thanking God for the roof over her head and she talks to her plants everyday and listens to motivational podcasts in the morning.

In our conversation she shared that you have to smell the flowers while you still can. And if you’re able to give flowers to someone– even better. As the saying goes- life is short. Julietta knows this, especially since her patients include a professor from UC Berkeley who wrote a published book about Organic Chemistry and her other patient is the former District Attorney of San Bruno, and both of them can’t even tell you their name or what day it is. They both have dementia. She referred to them as “The walking dead”. I asked her, knowing what you know, and seeing what you’ve seen, what’s a piece of advice you can give me. Without hesitation she said: “Do what you love. And if you love it, make sure it knows it.”

Julietta’s advice isn’t new. We’ve all heard a version of it, but for some reason her words resonated with me. Maybe it was because she didn’t seem like the typical 60 year old Filipina, and she knew a thing or two about death since she saw it almost everyday for the last two decades. Maybe it was because I had 3 glasses of wine and I was impressionable to anything I heard, or maybe it was because I genuinely cared about the wisdom Julietta was imparting on me. What ever the case, here I am on my blog, in which I’ve neglected because of moving. It took a complete stranger to remind me to go back to the thing I love and make sure it knows. I don’t know how to express to my blog how much I appreciate it, and I’m even more uncertain how to audit how it might even know that it is loved. But what I can do, as Julietta showed me today, is to make an effort, whether it’s praying and giving grace for every meal or offering a bottle of wine to a new neighbor or logging into an account and writing about a stranger. We all have our own unique ways of showing love for the things that matter. According to Julietta, as long as we live with this purpose, you’ll live a very fulfilled life. Her fingernails may be painted silver and gold and she may do a little dance when the opportunity arrises to drink on a random Monday night, but never the less, she’s absolutely wise beyond her years. It’s written all over her youthful face.

Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

Rest in power Auntie Emy

Today I received heart breaking news: my Auntie Emy passed away due to a massive heart attack. The last time I saw her was in March 2016, on my wedding day. She wore a beautiful black gown, red lipstick and her black hair was styled like a sleek bob. Before that, I saw her on New Year’s Eve 2014. We visited her at her house and she said I looked “sexy,” even though I was wearing work out clothes. LOL. Later she came over my mom’s house and smiled when I took shots of whiskey and tequila and sat in the nipa hut and said Mabuhay as we raised our plastic cups in the dark.

She was the kind of aunt I would have loved to grown up with. I imagined that if I got into a fight with my parents, I’d run over to her house and she’d console me with a plate of pancit then, secretly, call my parents to pick me up and take me home. She was that kind of person: she knew exactly what you needed even if you didn’t know it yourself. She was wise, kind and a second Mom to me and everyone.

We don’t have a lot of memories together. How could we? We lived oceans and continents apart, and I couldn’t visit often besides a visit every 3-4 years. But with every visit, she was there, always there, being Auntie Emy. In some way I always imagined that she’d be there the next time I visited. She was like a security blanket, a warm hug, a familiar home. I know that she won’t physically be there, but at least I have my memories. Maybe I can still imagine running away from home and visiting Auntie Emy, although this time with, pancit and whisky, she’ll let me stay for as long as I need her.

Bloggers vs. Writers

On Sunday, August  30, I had the great privilege of taking a writing class with the People’s Poet Tony Robles. For those who don’t know, Tony Robles is a poet from San Francisco who is now the Carl Sandburg Home Writer in Residence & Resistance. On Sunday, he offered a virtual class titled “Writing out of Quarantine.”

I consider it a privilege to write and study with literary role models whose work I have admired and looked up to. In my short time as a budding writer, I have been fortunate to be in the company of writers such a Tony Robles, ZZ Packer, Kristen Valdez Quade, Patricia Powell, and so many brilliant, creative minds, that it is humbling to ponder on the luck and fortune that has shaped my writing trajectory. 

On Sunday, I was expecting Tony’s class to be an opportunity in which I honed my poetry skills, since poetry isn’t my strongest genre. I know that writing poetry inherently improves literary craft techniques such as imagery, rhyme, metaphor, simile, etc. My prose writing could benefit from this experience. Instead of learning lessons about poetry, I actually learned a more valuable lesson about writing. 

In the beginning of class, Tony asked us how the quarantine affected us. There were about a dozen people on the call and for the most part we all expressed the same feelings- we couldn’t write. We felt it took more time to accomplish tasks. There was an overall sentiment of despair. Many expressed grief- from the loss of a life to the loss of motivation of the things they once loved to do like paint, write, hug. It was sobering but empowering to relate to complete strangers.

When it was my turn to share, I expressed that I had felt the same sentiments and that I have had lingering feelings about the direction of my writing. Lately I have been investing more time and dedication to my blog, that I have neglected my other writing projects, specifically the short stories I have been writing for the last four years. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing. In fact, on my blog, I’m writing 4-5 times a week, about 30 minutes to an one hour, sometimes more depending on the topic. While I’m not actively writing my short stories, I’m still actively writing- on my blog. Does this make me less of a writer? I know blog writing is not the same as literary writing, but it’s still writing. I still put in the time to craft sentences, phrases, and I’m particular about certain words and details. I apply the same craft elements as I would in literary fiction such as developing imagery, tone, theme and sometimes character and setting. And while I’m not publishing a book, I hit a little button 3-5 times a week that says “publish.” I share my work with others and sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll get encouraging phrases like a “like” or a comment. With all that is going on in the world, on my blog I try to write about the positive aspects in my life, and this is done intentionally because I need an escape from the pain and sorrow I’m feeling every day. This blog is saving me. 

I know one day I will return to my short stories. I haven’t abandoned them completely, but for now my blog is what I need. It’s a place that I can simply write and be proud to be in the company of bloggers, readers and writers. While some might argue and suggest that blogging is not writing, I will respectfully disagree and say writing is writing. Like breathing is breathing. Like walking is walking. Sure we all do it a little differently, but at the end of the day, we all exhale and inhale, take step by step, put words together, one by one, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. Am I a blogger? Am I a writer? Maybe I’m lucky — I’m both.  

Chadwick Boseman 

I didn’t follow your career closely, but I remember seeing you light up the screen watching Black Panther and thinking then how fortunate the world was to witness your talent and the long standing career we were going to be lucky to witness. Then I saw videos of you during interviews, commencement speeches and award shows and heard your message about living with purpose and how it was not tied to a career but rather sharing the gift that God has bestowed on you.The wisdom and talent you displayed on and off the screen cannot be measured. How can they? You were immeasurable, as an actor and as a man, through and through.

My heart is heavy today mourning your loss. You gave so much in such a short period of time– more than many people accomplish in a lifetime. You influenced us with your art, your words, your glorious soul, even when you were suffering in pain. How fortunate to be in such resilient company. I pray that you are resting peacefully and powerfully, and may your reverent spirit and Wakanda live forever. 

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