I moved to New York!


The past several months have been a rollercoaster of emotions and stress as I prepared myself to make one of my biggest life changes so far: I moved to New York City! I've been meaning to write and publish this post, but I've been busy trying to adapt and settle into the city – plus, I've had the opportunity and pleasure to write for my school paper, in which I've been doing since the beginning of this semester!

It's such an exciting time to be somewhere new, and in a place where I was always drawn to since I first discovered my calling to write. As my goal is to pursue that career and the ambition to become a journalist in the Big Apple, I quit my job, broke up with my ex-partner, I packed my bags and, with my mask on, I headed to the city that never sleeps.

It was definitely a shock, not just going from a tropical climate to a winter storm (the day after I arrived in New Jersey, where I was picked up by my family, another huge storm had hit the East Coast!), but also the shock of being where I always dreamed of living in. To have so much control over my life now that I'm solo and wanting to build my life up. Since I felt like I was swimming in old water from experiencing mental breakdowns, feelings of existentialism, and going through relationship problems, I feel that doing this was the right decision, one that would guide me to a better and more clearer pathway towards a happy and successful life I'm always striving for. 

One of the difficult aspects of this journey that I'm still learning the ropes of is being constantly out of my comfort zone. I was so used to being with my parents and relying on their support – now I have to do everything on my own. Usually I'd come with my mother to the grocery store to get food and other things; I'd drive to Target or Walmart and help pick out what foods to get, help them in the car, and help bring them inside the house. It's easy to get what you need or want because my parents will pay it for it – I have to learn to budget, walk to a bodega, Target, or Trader Joe's, and bring the groceries up myself. Sometimes I feel like I'm struggling to budget and ultimately end up indulging myself (especially living in New York when there's so many cool businesses and thrift stores, etc.), but I'm slowly getting there. 

A closed coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.

Another thing that was difficult in going through this new journey of moving out and, essentially, "leaving the nest", was navigating my move during the pandemic. It's definitely an interesting topic to converse in, with the debate and discussions of whether or not it will be a worthwhile experience due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place – especially moving in the February, the peak of the winter season. 

During one of my first dinners with a new friend from college, she told me that I was very brave for moving the city at around this time of the year. "Not many would be willing to do what you did!" she said to me over some matcha latte, hot chocolate, and beef chili. It was in the negatives that evening, winds were like icy knives slicing my skin, and the snow that came from the recent storm earlier then just began to melt as the pavements busied themselves with more people after Gov. Cuomo opened indoor dining around Valentine's day. Even though I despise the cold, it felt refreshing to breathe in the air after a downfall of fresh snow – for me, it symbolized a new beginning. 

So far into my new life, I've made connections with people, discovered more of the city, learned how to take the subway, and slowly settling into the New York living. I have yet to discover more, but so far I've tried and tasted cool coffee shops, restaurants, bought books from quirky bookshops, 

It's definitely an interesting experience, especially in the middle of a pandemic and one that I'm still learning to navigate. But, as the weather begins to warm up with the remains of winter trailing off and spring about to bloom, as well as more people that I'm seeing getting vaccinated, hopefully things will start to look up and get back to normal. 

I will try to keep up with posting all my adventures and experiences, as there's so many things to do, discover, and explore in New York City! 

2020 in a nutshell 💫


Twenty-twenty was definitely an interesting year for all of us. There was the lingering potential of World War III, which never really happened; the world was thrown in a global pandemic and we were all forced to quarantine inside, learning to live a brand new lifestyle of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing. Black people were shot and protests were ignited, influencing another historic moment in the Black Lives Movement, and then the elections happened. 

It certainly was a crazy year, full of surprises, revelations, grief, and a lot of learning. I certainly learned a lot this year. I realized I was in a relationship I didn't deserve, with someone who didn't treat me right. I had the courage to leave my job and look for other work I wanted to do. And I finally got into a school in New York City. When 2020 had started, I had the mindset of "New Year, New Me" and I thought I was going to flourish in my relationship and career. But, this was the year I lost, I failed, and I grew up. 

I was pushed back with struggles - I was faced with fear, uncertainty, and a mental instability. I have no idea what to expect, or what to do now. With my school in New York, I had hopes of moving there to start a new life and finally find the breakthrough in my career. But not everything comes into fruition and not all plans work out. The spread of COVID had become dangerous that a second wave had swept across the city. It was a life or death risk that I wasn't willing to take at the time. The only thing I can do is be patient. 

Trudging through 2020 was hard. I was faced with an uncertainty when my mother was tested positive for the virus. I had the ubiquitous concern that maybe I had it, that I was asymptomatic. That perhaps I was being irresponsible. Although it turned out she contracted it from her work, it still gave me anxiety and self-doubt. On top of that, I left my job and lost friends, lost a relationship I thought was going to work out, and lost money paying my school. I was at a dead-end. 

The silver lining that I found when I was plunged into the bottom of the deep-end was that I reconnected with an old friend. Sangeeta had helped through a few boy-problems in the past, as well was supported me when I was facing personal issues, and I the same for her. We were best friends during my time at community college, hanging out in various spots in our town and she even took me to my first concert where I watched Travis Scott strapping himself to a rollercoaster and riding in a loop.

2020 was like a tsunami that unexpectedly swept us away. Hopefully not too far as we begin to walk back to normalcy with the new vaccine that's slowly distributing across the globe. Other than reconnecting a valuable friendship, I also got good grades in my classes in the Fall, and I'm working on re-launching my zine The Wallflower (finally!). My team is gradually coming together, and I have bright hopes for the future of my publication. Go check it out if you haven't already! 

I have a feeling that 2021 will be better – not just for me but for everyone else. We just have to keep manifesting good vibes and positive energy. I hope all of you had a fantastic [and responsible] new year's celebration. As we enter a new year and a new month, let's carry on forward, set ourselves new goals and new mindsets, and let's make the best of 2021!

When my mother had COVID


Around the time my sister left for Los Angeles to visit my older sister last month, was when she started feeling unwell - feelings of dizziness, constant fatigue, and a fever that was getting higher. I was getting worried, and it got worse when my sisters came back from California when she got the results. Seeing my mother isolated somewhere far away, succumbing to a ubiquitous disease with a cure that hadn't existed yet, skyrocketed the anxiety that already keeps me up at night. My mother having COVID was one of the worse experiences I've had so far this year. 

My mother works as an assisted-living nurse: she cares for the elderly in a senior home or assists them in their residence. The elderly tend to be high risk, being more susceptible to the virus because of pre-existing conditions. And so, like my father who is a nurse, she's a frontliner who is risking her safety to ensure the care of others. Like my father, she's brave for stepping forward and contributing to fight back in this deadly pandemic. 

The spread of the virus in Florida is worse, the death tolls and cases climbing up the charts once again and titling Florida as the hot-spot of COVID. Unlike many states, Florida is amongst one of the other states with no mandatory mask regulations, and Gov. DeSantis has reopened all businesses. It's sometimes difficult for me to go outside where I sometimes see people walking around with no masks, nor social distancing as if there's nothing to worry about - I've never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. 

This fear and anxiety I had peaked when my dad sat my sisters and I down to tell us my mother was tested positive. It was heart wrenching news to hear, especially knowing my mother has high blood pressure. But my dad is a fantastic medic and knew exactly what to do to prevent the virus settling down our house and being spread to us. 

For 2 and a half weeks, my mother quarantined in one of my aunt's uninhabited house a few minutes away from us. My dad went through a rigorous routine to prevent the spread – he placed a small table outside the room she slept in which kept a big bottle of hand sanitizer, a box of disposable masks, and a pair of lab goggles to protect the eyes. He only stepped into the room to feed her or giver water, to take her temperature, and then measure her blood sugar with a sphygmomanometer. He always encouraged my sisters and I constant hand-washing and avoiding going outside as much as possible unless we needed groceries, as well as taking vitamins C to strengthen our immune system. 

It was a difficult month to go through. I was constantly worried the virus was going to win, but my mother is strong. She fought hard and she survived. 

Just because my mother survived the virus and became better, it still does not mean it should be treated lightly. This virus has taken millions of lives, not just in the U.S. but around the globe. This upcoming holiday, I know that it will be a difficult and unprecedented time to celebrate with your family and I know most of us are already over this, but please think of their safety and lives. WE ARE STILL IN A PANDEMIC. A trip to the bar, or a crowded ice rink or a Christmas party is not worth the loss of a life. 

I wish you all a happy and safe holidays – whatever you celebrate this month, please remember to be responsible and take care of yourself! 

Commercialized poetry


Since reading Shakespeare in secondary school, and briefly touching upon the war poems of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, the seed of my love for poetry was soiled. But it didn't grow the same way that my love for books grew. I've since been following Instagram-famous poets such as Atticus, Rupi Kaur, and r.h.sin, and as much as I read and adore some of their poetry, I sometimes think to myself is this considered "real" poetry?

What is considered "real poetry" anyway? Poetry is art through language and, like many other art forms we know of, there's no real meaning, real purpose, real anything. It is simply a unique and creative creation that we make and we enjoy – and since everyone is unique in their own way (differing opinions, experiences, and perspectives on life), everyone has a different understanding of what is considered "art". So, in truth, there really is nothing in this world that would finitely define what "real poetry" is. 

For me, what I consider "real poetry" is something that takes me into another world or through an experience. Like how when I'm reading a book, I'm immersed in that universe through the imagery and language: the distinct voices and traits of the characters, the rich narration, and vividness of the descriptions. Poetry that is able to do that, and sound like a song sung from the tongue, is what I consider "real poetry". 

However, the poets like the ones I mentioned – Rupi Kaur, r.h. sin, Atticus, as well as Nikita Gill and Courtney Peppernell – all produce poetry that seem generic. Ones that follow the same themes and motifs of self-love and terrible relationships and heartbreak, or - even worse, imo - going into the "manic pixie dreamgirl" where it's like "she used to drink the wine / like how she used to love me" or something like that (basically anything by Atticus). From what I've read in their aesthetic looking poetry books and beautifully designed Instagram posts, they all seem to use the same recycled words of "she", "love", "drug", etc. and follow the same pattern or "design frame". 

Poetry is one of the most beautiful art forms, and perhaps my favourite, but with the new wave of Insta-poets, I feel this art form has been filtered down into commercialized poetry

Commercialized poetry? How I see it, it's poems that are a short and quick read that is direct and objective so anyone can read it/be universally understood. To me, this goes against the subjectivity and poetic language that poetry is well known for; as pointed out by this article. I don't want to say that poetry is an academia (which I don't think it is), but Insta-poems have ruined the core and true artistic nature of poetry that I grew up learning about through Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, and Emily Dickinson. 

I applaud Rupi Kaur and Atticus for pioneering this new wave of poets and bringing poetry to the mainstream media, making it as popular as it was before the age and evolution of technology. But the fact that poetry had to be dialed down into something more consumable for readers, rather than as the complex expression of the nature of the artist, just kind of shows that, really, there is a lack of appreciation for poetry. 

Maybe people have different ways of expressing themselves, but something that I noticed was how easy it was to create an Instagram handle, type a bunch of words about falling in love whilst drunk on a plain white background, and become an Insta-poet - this guy did it, and he did it successfully.  

I think that there are many other great poets who definitely deserve more recognition in the mainstream, some of which includes Solmaz Sharif (she wrote a fantastic collection of poems that played with fragmentation and white space), Eileen Myles, Mary Oliver, and Jericho Brown (whose collection of poems "The Tradition", won the Pulitzer Prize in literature). If you want to take a break from short, forward, and generic Insta-poems, I highly recommend looking into these poets! 

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think Insta-poets are too generic and commercialized? Or is it just a new way to express in poetry? 

Self-Care for the Holidays / December Book announcement


Since the pandemic began and we were pushed into lockdown, our mental health has been greatly impacted. Some of us have to experience isolation, stay indoors, some of us have lost our jobs, our businesses, and some of us are suffering financially and emotionally. With quarantine put back in place, a lot of people are spending this Thanksgiving apart, through Zoom, or social distancing.

I know that many of you are perhaps experiencing Zoom or screen fatigue, or are perhaps feeling depressed, lonely, tired, bored, etc. It's hard to take care of yourself, let alone celebrate a huge holiday and another upcoming one, when you're confined within four walls. 

Despite the distance, we're all still connected through technology! Whether it's Zoom or FaceTime, sending memes on Snapchat, sharing and liking photos and videos on Instagram, and messaging on Facebook, just know that you are not alone. I hope that this Thanksgiving, you took advantage of this revelation in our generation to be responsible and keep your families and friends safe and distanced. It's not easy being so far apart from the people you love, but I hope you all did the right thing in taking the precautions in light of coronavirus!

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas is just around the corner. Things will definitely be different, and some traditions have to adapt for the circumstances. You may feel lost, depressed, hopeless... but I curated a list of tips to help you survive the Holidays in this time of uncertainty. 

It may feel like things will be different this Christmas and New Years, but that shouldn't stop us from moving forward and at least enjoy the remaining time of 2020! When facing with uncertainty, the very first step you need to do is to take care of yourself. Take care of your body and especially your mind. I've been trying to stay active by going for walks, particularly around this huge field outside my house - it's a nice breathe of fresh air, especially after finishing three consecutive Zoom classes!

One thing I've been trying to push myself to do, and perhaps something you may consider, is to try therapy. I've tried therapy once before when something very personal happened to me and has helped a lot; I've heard many great things about it. I stopped going because of its high costs, but I learned only recently that universities offer free counseling to students. If your college or institution offer free counseling, take advantage of that! Talking to a professional and receiving professional guidance may help. 

As a writer, journaling and writing also helps me, not just keep myself sane, but take care of my mind and improve my writing skills. I try to write poems as much as I can, following a goal I set myself this month which was to start working on a manuscript / putting together a poetry collection. That's another step you can also take in this weird time in your life: set yourself some goals. Whether they're big and ambitious, or small and easily achievable. Having a goal or a set of goals gives you a purpose, and helps drive you forward when you feel stuck. 

Plan your days. Writing to-do lists and writing a plan for each day helps, just like the previous point, give you a sense of purpose and a drive. I have a workflow of using my daily and weekly planner to plan each day and the conceptualize my week. It's helped keep me organized and productive for school (especially as I'm taking 5 classes this semester). I've been meaning to write a piece on the PassionPlanner - I guess that's one thing I can add to my plan for this week!

The past couple months, I've also been buying and reading a lot of books. Reading helps feed and nurture the mind, and has definitely helped in improving and finding my writing style – as Virginia Woolf said, 

"Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river."

(It's so poetic!)

Since my November goal is to put together a manuscript of poetry, I've mostly been reading poetry books. I recently bought Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (an interesting epic on the politics of war and democracy - you can read more here), and House of Light by Mary Oliver. I'll definitely write reviews about them - I don't think I've ever written a review on a poetry collection, but that also another thing I can add to my list!

Of course not all these advice are for everyone - we all have different ways of coping or taking care of ourselves. I hope all of you are doing it the healthy way, and I also hope some of these advice help you in some way. If you have any piece of advice to staying sane and healthy and taking care of yourself, list them in the comments below 😃

It's not always easy to take care of yourself, especially if you feel trapped like most of us are feeling in the midst of this pandemic. But, always remember, this just a temporary setback and things will return to normal, if not better, eventually! 

Some words of encouragement: stay strong, and keep ploughing forward.

December book announcement!

It's been a while since I last posted about my book club (5 classes can make you take a step back!) but this December, I'd like to announce the next book to read for my book club:

In Five Years – By Rebecca Serle

nicole isabel