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BEHIND THE BLOG
Nicole is a New York-based freelance writer, occasional poet, and a Journalism and Communication design student at The New School. She likes to write, take photographs of sunsets, and exploring and documenting it all on her blog.
On The Blog
This week was my last week of school. Ever. I thought that the feeling of nostalgia from the beginning and that connection would be stronger, but then I remembered that we spent a year on Zoom during the pandemic. What fun times - spending all that money to be stuck at home and talking to students and professors through computer screens and DMs. I always wonder, looking back, if it's worth it; but at the same time, it gave me all the reason to savour the experiences and moments on campus and to take advantage of every resource and opportunities the university offers. Which is what I did. 

This past year since moving to New York City has been one hell of a journey: I moved homes at least 3 times, went through and had 3 jobs (working 2 simultaneously when I was taking summer classes), lived through a roach infestation, had COVID-19 twice (experiencing it the second time as I type this with a sniffly nose from my bed), and I've struggled and prevailed as we're going through one of the worst recession we've seen. And it was all in a span of 14 months. It's been one hell of a journey, but I lived through it all and still stand today (well, lay as I am still sick). 


Reflecting upon my past two years at The New School, my experiences were mellow. Half of it was fun, the half when I moved to New York City. My university is a great school to go to (although, there were times, during the semester I was a reporter for the college newspaper, that I got to witness the flawed system and administration of the school) and I did not regret my decision to come here - I just wished I had a better and more fuller college experience. It wasn't the fault of the university or New York: we were plundered into an unknown abyss, filled with depression and burnout and grief and fear as the coronavirus continued to linger on the streets, amidst the air we breathed. 

Despite circumstances, professors and other faculty tried their best to lead engaging classes. It's difficult to stay engaged when you're so comfortable in your own bed and haven't moved in a week - it made me lazy, taking those Zoom classes from the tropics of Florida and the warm, comfort food of my mother's cooking, and the quietness of my isolated, suburban community on the tops of the hillside. I had to get out. I had to go to the bustling hustle of city living. Florida was not the place for me. It was worth it, although I sometimes struggled, mentally and emotionally and financially when I first moved to the city. But in this past year since moving out of my parent's home I've learned so much and grown into someone stronger, more independent, and more sure of myself. 


THE EAST VILLAGE APARTMENT: WHERE IT STARTED


I found an apartment through Facebook for $650 - a COVID-19 price that was a deal I couldn't miss. With the help of my sister and parents, I took the offer, hopped on the plane, and moved to a tiny East Village apartment. I moved in February - the worst month to move in the city - so it was cold, the streets were scattered with dirty snow, and COVID-19 was at its peak. My experience the first few weeks were not the best, as I was stuck at home because one of the biggest snow storms had hit the city. I had no friends, nowhere to go or to do (except going to Zoom university) and was depressed. I only had one friend with whom I've been speaking with virtually, and who ended up becoming my roommate as the city got warmer. 

As the summer came around, I took this as an opportunity to explore the city more. My roommates and friends went bar hopping, karaoke, attended events, and explored the parks. It was my Hot Girl Summer as a single 20-something in New York City. Of course, it was also the summer I met my ex-boyfriend. Around this time, I was enrolled half-time and working two jobs - helping customers during the day and serving beer at night. It wasn't the best balance, so I ended up quitting serving beer and helping customers and got a job in health administration. 

BROOKLYN BABY


As my sublet ended, I got what I had hoped for: moving to Brooklyn. I moved into this renovated apartment next to the overhead M and J train lines on Broadway. It was a better apartment compared to the East Village one, which was an eight floor walk-up with barely any walking space or shared capacities where we once found a mouse eating our food in the cabinets. This Brooklyn apartment had new kitchen appliances and clean floors, and a bathroom that had a proper shower. Of course, my room had no windows - but no true New Yorker has not lived in a shitty apartment space. It wasn't until several months in when we found a roach infestation inside the walls, and we ended up moving again (*cue single tear drop emoji*). 

I remained in Brooklyn and moved into a beautiful apartment with exposed brick walls on a quiet street. It's one of my favorite parts of New York City, as it's more suburban and quiet yet not too far away from the hustle of Manhattan. Although it is slowly becoming gentrified with rising rent costs, it is still one of my favorite boroughs in New York. My commute is gorgeous, as I pass the Williamsburg bridge and witness the views the city. When I take the train at the right times, I get to see the beautiful sunset that hits the city skyline. 

THE COVID-19 MONSTER


I was unfortunate to catch COVID-19 in the most timely times. I caught it just before I was supposed to fly out back to Florida for Christmas and New Years, and I caught just before I am supposed to graduate. COVID-19 is testing me right now. The city uplifted the mask mandates, but even then I still kept myself safe and practiced social distancing (well, tried to). New York is one of the most congested and over-populated cities, and I know that traveling through the subways can be daunting (the F train between midtown and LES is a bloody nightmare) as we're squashed together in the same cars, holding and touching the same poles that have been touched by hundreds to thousands of people throughout the day, and people constantly traveling from other states. It's difficult to stay safe, when the city is always bustling and moving. 

These experiences I went through showed me how hard life really is. It showed me that good things don't get handed to you, and that you must work for it. I am privileged enough to get help from my parents on the occasion that I'm truly struggling, but this experience has humbled me and taught me many great lessons. 

My years at The New School has been an interesting journey to say the least, and I've enjoyed the moments and met some of the most interesting and talented people I've ever encountered. Not just in Lang, but at Parsons (where I'm minoring in Communication Design) there are so many creative students with incredible portfolios and backgrounds! It was exciting and fun to meet a community of open-minded intellectuals, most of whom have served as inspirations to me, or have become some of my closest friends. 

Now that my time has ended as a student and I'm entering "the real world", as I've been told, it's time for another new chapter in my life. I haven't made a plan yet, other than having a long rest as well as continuing on evolving my senior capstone project (I created a Substack and zine which you should definitely check out!). I'm uncertain of what the future will hold, but I have high prospects as I continue to evolve myself and my writing, build and continue building projects, pitching and publishing my pieces, and taking advantage of opportunities that fall in front of me. 

I want to say a huge congratulations to the class of 2022! You finally did it. You made it. You made your family and friends and people you love proud and, most importantly, you made yourself proud. You worked hard and you earned it. 

I look forward to what the future holds for us.

5.15.2022

Opening to Kate Dibiasky, a PhD candidate played by an unnoticeably pregnant Jennifer Lawrence, casually making toast and a cup of tea, singing the lyrics to "Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit" by Wu Tang Clan with a deadpan-ness that we see in Dibiasky throughout the film. She makes herself comfortable with her tea and snacks, and preparing the Subaru telescope for a casual viewing as part of her PhD studies, until she notices something. She's surprised. Happy. Excited. Terrified. A reaction which we see spread out as we continue. 

Inspired by true events, "Don't Look Up" is an interesting summary of 2021, drawing a conclusion to one of the (truly) catastrophic year as of yet. From portraying the polarization we see in politics, to the juicy satire of the previous administration, this movie represents a huge aspect of this generation: the media landscape and how much it can influence everything. 

The film started with a shocking discovery: a comet headed towards earth and with mathematical calculations, they only have six months left until impact, in which the comet will wipe out every known species on Earth to extinction. Kate Dibiasky and astronomy professor from Michigan State University Dr. Randall Mindy (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who both discovered the comet are set out to convince the world to prepare for the apocalypse. Along with the help of Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe - who was portrayed by Rob Morgan - the head of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office (and yes, that's a real place), they go on a journey that started with the government. Meryl Streep plays a cluelessly narcissistic and motivated woman president, Janie Orlean (who I think is based on Donald Trump), and Jonah Hill is her arrogant and spoiled son Jason Orlean, who is also the Chief of Staff (nepotism that is also familiar in the Trump administration), with whom Dibiasky, Dr. Mindy, and Teddy try to convince to do something. Similar to the reaction of COVID-19, it was met with skepticism and downplayed. 

The way in which this apocalyptic event was treated as another piece in the game of politics and politicized throughout the movie, shows the greed and selfish motives of people. This can be evidently seen when we see the nation become divided - the satirical memes making fun of Dibiasky, TikTok videos denouncing the comet and calling scientists marxists, and hashtags that start a movement (#BlameKate, #DontLookUp). This is a representation of this generation and the current media landscape - a vast space of endless possibilities, allowing people the freedom to share their thoughts or ideologies. This power given to the public, although it's a democratization of information, it also trivializes events.  

This is a hard-hitting satirical story that exposes basically us - you, me, the people we watch on TV, the celebrities we follow, the people we interact with on social media. We see it in today's social climate: politicians spreading propaganda, politicizing a pandemic that has claimed over five million lives, and seeing a a divide nation at war with each other. Celebrities attempting to be relevant by voicing their opinions on politics. Although we see some familiarity, seeing our reflection on our screens, we think we know what happens; but director Adam McKay does a great job in creating a sense of unpredictability and anxiety. 

In the interview on The Daily Rip with Brie Evantee and Jack Bremmer (both portrayed with the wit and humor of cookie-cutter American anchors by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry), we see the shaky close up of Kate to absorb the anxiety she's feeling. The light behind her face so we see the shadows of her expressions that say "we're fucked". Another thing I really loved about the style of this director is the sudden and blunt transitions between the scenes, sometimes cutting off dialogue of the characters. We don't know what's going to happen. We don't know what we're going to expect. It truly captures how we're all feeling at these uncertain times. 

This funny, terrifying, and thrilling movie encapsulates our experiences this past year through a painfully satirical observation of our society. In a way, it reminds us of how oblivious we all are of the gravity of the situations we're all facing - I've noticed how trivialized the pandemic has become, where people are so exhausted that seeing the death or case count is just another number they see on the screen. Like Manohla Dargis' thoughts, the people on earth aren't interested in saving their own planet. We're far from taking action and taking it seriously. The Climate Clock on 14th Street Union Square (that counts down the time we have left until the effects of climate change are irreversible) is just another photo opportunity for tourists in Manhattan, New York. 

It's an interesting film that's worth the watch if you like to laugh and be entertained by Cate Blanchett's funny portrayal of a blonde, horny, and shameless news anchor with a low-key drinking problem, or Jonah Hill as the grotesque and perverted son, who is spoiled and childish, of a female president of similar manner. With a cast of variety and famous names (including Ariana Grande as the vapid but beautiful singer, Riley Bina, and Timothee Chalamet), you will relate to the storyline as it punches in a very familiar series of events, ending with an ending that will remind us of our impending doom. 

If you saw the movie, what did you think of it? Do you agree? 


12.26.2021

It's been a chaotic semester. The most chaotic I've ever been in.
I've had a lot of ups and downs, mental breakdowns and revolutionary realizations, and fighting through the gusts and rains of a hurricane that is adulthood and college life. Despite the hardships, and the trials and tribulations that this semester has given me, it has taught me a lot of important lessons on life and living in the big city. It is both a blessing and a curse to move out and start a new life on my own. Since it's the end of the semester and almost the end of the year, I wanted to share some thoughts about this December... although I've come to realize, after finishing writing this and going through for edits, it's thoughts about this year in general. So please enjoy my 2021 rant.


COLLEGE LIFE


My college experience in the first semester back in-person has been an up and down, bittersweet journey. One of the policies that my university has implemented is regular PCR resting to remain access to campus. Although this is a precaution that my school took to keep us safe, I found it extremely inconvenient - I missed my first week of classes since I wasn't able to get my PCR results submitted on time. According to students, this proved to be a recurring problem and affected the college experience for many, including myself. Out of all the student friends and coworkers in New York City that I know of as of yet, my university is perhaps the only one to have required testing protocols in the city.

It was nice to be able to be present in class, to meet and talk to people almost felt normal. Mask mandates made it hard to hear people in discussions or to identify who I'm talking with (this applies to any social environment in general). Despite some classes supposedly being in-person, there were times when professors moved the class to Zoom - either due to an illness, traveling, or they simply didn't submit their negative test results in time.

Overall, it was a normal-ish first semester back in-person. The protocols are understandable. I get it. It shows the university is taking initiative to protect the students, staff, and faculty amidst the pandemic. It's not an entirely perfect system but hey, at least they're doing their best.

THE COVID-19 SURGE


As some of you may have already known, there has been an uptick of positive COVID-19 cases. Thanks to the Omicron variant, New York and New Jersey have fallen victim as the fastest growing states of cases, dominating the cities and taking over the people I know and care about with this new variant.

My recent college experience from being back on campus is already tricky enough, but to see another wave with a new and concerning variant scares the living skin out of me. My life has been chaotic and is about to become even more chaotic. As a message to my readers amidst this slowly evolving virus-filled apocalypse, I'm asking you all to think twice about going out and about and to wear masks, wash your hands, and keep a safe distance from people. Many, many people have been affected, with over 21,000 positive cases in New York City in just one day.

As a fellow New Yorker, I have come to know the density and small space of the city - it is inevitable to be shoulder to shoulder with people, especially on the subway and other public transit. It's winter. It's flu season. It's getting colder and colder, the wind hollowing through the skyscrapers and fire-escape-covered apartments sharpening the piercing low temperatures. New York City became the centre of the pandemic in the first wave of the coronavirus. Let's not let that happen again.

MY PLANT PHASE BEGINS


Part of my self-care routine has included taking care of plants. Since moving to New York City, I always wanted to get a cat to keep me company. But after an incident with my sister's cat last year and witnessing the costs she went through of taking care of her animal, I thought that maybe that wasn't a wise idea. So I started getting plants.

Thanks to my roommate, I became interested in biophilic design which is when you implement nature in your indoor spaces as a way to harness the connection between nature and human. Since I live in a small apartment that lacks windows and space, hanging around my apartment can feel dull or empty. By adding plants to my space, it helps to brighten up my space and to have a routine of taking care of something is a form of self-care.

Science has said it's beneficial for your health, improving your happiness, productivity, focus, and helps in reducing stress. I've started growing my collection and getting a series of varied plants, from calatheas and montserras, to lithops (or "living stone"), aglaonemas, and orchids (although my orchid got root rot so I may have to throw it away 😢). I highly recommend adding plants to your space, especially if you live in an urban area - New York can get pretty depressing, especially in the winter where people tend to get seasonal depression. You just have to know and learn how to take care of them!

If you're interested in a post specifically about biophilic design or plant care, or want me to start a series on the blog, then comment down below!

CHRISTMAS PLANS


Christmas Holidays are perhaps one of the most chaotic times of the year. My family and I are dispersed all over the world and the States, which makes it difficult to get everyone together for Christmas. There were times when I spent Christmas in New Jersey with my extended family, my sisters and parents at home. Or when my sister spent Christmas with her husband's family and it was just my parents, my sister, and I. It's always different every year, but it's especially difficult with COVID-19, where my cousin is unable to come home due to their roommates being affected.

No matter what your plans are for this Christmas and New Years, I just hope everyone spends it responsibly and safely. Please don't forget that we're still in a pandemic, with a virus that's constantly evolving and affecting everyone.

This has been a strange and interesting year for everyone. However, I hope you all make the most of the last few weeks until we enter 2022. Happy Holidays!

12.20.2021

Museums are historically defined as the institution committed to preserving the evidence of humankind and the environment, according to the definition by Britannica. The majority hold the original artifacts that have existed and preserved from a century ago to millions. Although libraries differ in a nuanced way, in which they store and preserve books, they are similar in a way where they both hold the stories, experiences, and knowledge of humanity throughout time. 

Charles Dickens' desk; where he wrote Great Expectations and Hard Times, as well as fifteen-thousand letters.

I've had the pleasure of sauntering around this fascinating exhibition that is being held at Stephen A. Schwarzman building at The New York Public Library between 40th and 42nd on 5th Avenue. Thanks to the generous donation of $12 million from philanthropist, Dr. Leonard Polonsky, you can now see rare artifacts and historical items that will conjure your curiosities. "The exhibition exposes to the world, or the world that is willing or able to attend, the richness of the holdings of the library...which are extraordinary." Polonsky says in an interview conducted for The New York Public Library's website. From ancient religious texts, to the first drafts of some of the most notable novels in literature, here are some of the artifacts that truly intrigued me. 

As a reader and fan of The New Yorker magazine, I was excited to see the original prospectus written by Harold Ross, who founded the publication in 1924 or 1925. Titled "The New Yorker" with their signature font, the drop caps and detailed, illustrative border with crinkles of the paper and coffee-coloured tone to show it's aging that showed that it's been through a lot - yet kept in good shape. 

Through the cleanest glass I've ever seen stands the stuffed toys that inspired a story that was my whole childhood. I grew up watching the show and reading the books about Christopher Robin's adventures with Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Kanga. As a child, I've always seen the characters as how they were originally illustrated (the original illustrator was Ernest H. Shepard). To see the inspiration behind it all, the very items that began a story that influenced and was embraced by millions of children and adults, was truly an amazing experience. 

I think one of the most decorative and beautiful books I've ever seen in my life is the Evangelie naprestol’noe (or the Altar Gospels). A golden cover with detailed engravings and embellished with gems and jewels, it is the book that highlights and holds the word of God to the highest standard. Bound by the Muscovite craftsmen (who were inspired by the French), it's a work of timeless art that anyone will marvel at. 

Another favourite in the exhibit was Charlotte Brontë's portable desk. Foldable and filled with different compartments to store her inks and pens, it was mesmerizing to look at a piece of Brontë that she used to write letters and drafts of some her greatest novels in English literature. According to the place card, the box was opened in 1973, the first time thirty years after The New York Public Library had acquired it. After unlocking it, they found several keepsakes of Charlotte's, including memorial cards for her siblings, Branwell and Emily. 

I was mesmerized by the illustration that the library displayed for Gaius Julius Hygenus's De astronomia. The book was opened to a page that had glowing illustrations of mythological creatures and a written manuscript that is a poem describing how the alignment of stars and planets governed the affairs between heaven and earth. Throughout the manuscript, he named 42 constellations and the gods and heroes associated with each of them. 

If you ever have spare time and happen to be around 42nd and 5th Ave., I highly recommend going! When I discovered the exhibition online, they have timed free admission!! And since the Christmas market has opened in Bryant Park, it also makes a nice date or general day out with friends where you can walk around after a look around the library and get hot cocoa and eat delicious food, shop for Christmas gifts, or go ice skating. 

The Polonsky Exhibition is the perfect place to marvel, learn, and delve into your curiosities. Get your free tickets, bring a friend, or even go by yourself as I did. 

11.13.2021

The past several months haven't been easy. From juggling multiple classes and working part-time, balancing relationships and school and work and life, it was difficult for me to find the time to spend for myself, to heal from past scars, and to work on striving towards becoming a better version of me. The experiences I've had these past several months have certainly taught me lessons and shaped some aspects of who I am, but it isn't enough to fully realize what I can be capable of. 

It has been one-hell of a journey the past several months since moving to New York City. I've worked through three jobs, moved and lived in two different places, and I've seen people come and go these last nine months. I recently ended a relationship – a relationship that's made me the happiest since I left the nest to live on my own. But there were certain parts that also made me realize that maybe I should focus on my own self-growth. 

I decided to create this series known as "A Rising Flower" which will chronicle my journey to self-growth and use it as a platform for my readers to hold me accountable, since I've been pushing myself for a while to go on this journey to build healthier habits and work on improving my overall mental health wellbeing. I noticed that parts of myself are toxic from holding onto certain memories, from trauma of my last relationship, from neglecting to take care of myself. 

As one of my closest friends told me, no one will be there for you except yourself. Be your own helping hand. Be your own source of happiness instead of having to rely on others. It was a problem with me - I did things with the hope and aspiration that I'll feel validated. I put people's needs before my own, a habit which, unfortunately, people have taken advantage of. It obscured my own image of myself and my self-worth. 

I started off my own journey to self-growth by reading more pages of a book that I've been meaning to finish reading for a while, "Minor Feelings" by Cathy Park Hong (a really interesting book, which is worth a post discussing the idea of having "minor feelings" and the experience of being Asian/Asian-American). I read for maybe half an hour before bed. I journaled my thoughts and reflected on what happened and wrote down what I was grateful for. I went grocery shopping and bought ingredients worth three different dishes and made a new recipe (spicy salmon bowl which was 🤌). I bought myself flowers that were the colours of Autumn and arranged them in my apartment's living area. And now I'm getting back into what I love doing and always enjoyed - writing and creating for my blog. 

This blog has been by my side for six years and has documented my growth and evolution since I started it. It has seen my ups and downs, my previous attempts at starting my personal growth journey, my changes in my career paths, my travels, my art, what I've read, my interests. It embodies who I am. And this is another chapter to my story that I hope you, my readers - new or loyal - will enjoy and hopefully be inspired from as well. 

11.07.2021

I had the incredible opportunity to join hundreds of passionate women, men, people of color, those identifying as LGBTQ in the march from Union Square on 14th Street to Washington Square park as a protest against the cruel law that was recently passed in Texas. 

If you aren't already familiar with what's been happening, Texas passed the Senate Bill 8 which is the new law that bans abortion after 6 weeks in a pregnancy. This is a near total-ban of abortion, but it also allows private citizens to enforce the law, rather than government actors. It also incentivizes this, meaning those who sue a person pursuing an abortion will be rewarded $10,000. 

This newfound power that's been given to private citizens (both in and outside Texas) further restricts the reproductive freedoms of women and trans men with the potential impact on those in their circles. To summarize, the Senate Bill 8 gives citizens the ability to enforce the law and sue anyone - not just those who are trying to get an abortion - but even the driver transporting them to the clinic, or even a friend who comes with them. The fact that anyone has this power is scary, and it's further enforced with anonymous tip sites, like the Texas Right to Life tipline that TikTokers have bombarded with Shrek porn

It was an amazing experience to be in the presence of hundreds of activists and the organizers of the protest today. Hearing so many people from organizations speak, provide facts, share why the Texas abortion ban is cruel, and mentioned other communities that have been affected. Cathy Rojas, the incredible woman who is running for Mayor of New York City, spoke out about how pro-lifers were liars: "They say [that government officials] are making these laws because they want to defend life; but at every moment, they show us they are killing life when they [sterilized] immigrant women, when they put children in cages in the borders, when they kidnap our black and brown youth from our streets and send them to Rikers..." she shouts through the microphone in front of the banner that says Free, Safe, Legal Abortion on Demand

We all wore the color green to show our solidarity for the protests that happened in Mexico prior to the decriminalization of abortion that came into effect recently. Before the march and once we arrived in Washington Square park, they spoke of and raised awareness and call-to-actions on a number of issues, including street harassment of people outside abortion clinics (such as the "Witness for Life" group that plans to harass and intimidate people going to the Planned Parenthood in Brooklyn Heights every Saturday), raising awareness that it's more than just a women's rights issue, but it also affects LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter movement, immigrant lives, and low-income people. 





They have another event being held in midtown on Sunday October 3rd – the anniversary of Rosie Jiménez, who died of a back-alley abortion in 1977. If you're in New York City, I hope to see you there. 

Contact ReproJusticeNowNYC@gmail.com for more information about how to get involved, as well as visiting NYC for Abortion Rights (who organized the protest) for more events! 

9.12.2021

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