Racing Against Myself

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Running has always been hard for me. My struggle with this type of physical activity has had a way of making me feel weak, which is probably why I learned to dread it. Combine that dread with an abnormal discomfort-level of being chased, it all just added up to one thing: running was not for me (I blame my older brother and cousins for traumatizing me as a child :P). Oh and how could I forget that I was also born with a heart murmur. So there’s that.

Yet, here I am at 23-years-old, with a 10K and now a half marathon under my belt.

I’ve noticed that in the past couple of years, organized races have become a huge thing. It’s no secret that their increase in popularity is due to the recent trend-shift toward a healthy lifestyle. There’s a walk, run and obstacle course for everything these days! It’s a hot commodity right now.

Maybe I was part of that wave of individuals that came across this movement and jumped aboard. At the forefront though, I just wanted something to work towards in terms of fitness.

Getting Back-To-Basics

Athleticism has never been my forté. Growing up, I tried out and joined sports teams for different reasons other than pure enjoyment of the sport. (Mostly for the cute uniforms…) So, health was never a priority of mine until college.

Living on campus my first year of college should have been the perfect time to get acquainted with the gym since it was included in my tuition fees. However, it was still tough for me to get myself on a good schedule. Why you ask? I never really went to the gym prior to college.  The need to be “fit” was not important to me in high school and in my head the “gym-timidation” was real. In high school, I ate whatever I wanted and did not experience any negative changes because of it. (Oh, those were the days). So, when I found myself in the gym as a freshman and sophomore at university, I felt lost. I had no clue how to use anything except the cardio machines…and I never really learned much about the gym until 2015. Until then, I used free weights, classes and cardio machines…oh I loved those cardio machines.

It was only until after my first year of college when I noticed that there were a lot of factors I didn’t experience in high school that led to weight gain in college: lifestyle change, stress, not really knowing where to access healthy options, the convenience of on-campus markets…oh and did I mention stress? I didn’t even fully notice my weight gain until the end of freshman year. I’m not saying that I became overweight, but it was definitely a time in my life when I realized that I needed to start caring about myself. So, after moving out of the residence halls and into an apartment to start my sophomore year, I made it a goal of mine to really pay attention to what I ate at least.

From then, I fluctuated amongst various diets and occasionally going to the gym. I became pescatarian my second year, vegetarian for most of my third year, vegan for a bit after that, back to vegetarian and eventually transitioned back to consuming red meats and poultry when I realized that majority of my diet ended up being carbs…bad carbs. However, through all of that, the most important lesson I learned from my “interesting” eating habits was really knowing what I was consuming.

That “Vegas” Body

In 2013, it was all about turning 21 and with that came my first trip with my friends to Las Vegas “of age.” As much as I’d like to say I didn’t let the whole “you need to be Vegas ready” stigma get to me, it did. At this point in my life, my desire to “be fit” didn’t originate from myself just yet. I would learn that a little later down the road. Regardless, it was during this time that I truly saw how good working out could feel. During the months leading up to July 2013, I worked out multiple times a week, maintained a mostly vegetarian diet and I saw the fruits of my labor. I lost weight, which was the only goal of mine at the time. BUT, after that long awaited Vegas trip, I noticed that I worked out less and less, especially when classes started up again in August; my last full academic year at SDSU. The “Vegas body” goal no longer existed, so my desire to work out diminished.

Running for ME

I used school, work and my internships as my excuse to let a couple months slip by with out really working out. I delved into my work, my extra curricular activities and of course my classes. Then, when January 2014 rolled around, I decided to sign up for my first ever race with hopes that forcing myself to stick to a training schedule would garner me fitness results…and I want to say they did; but in a much different sense. It was the first time I did something fitness-related purely for me. I ran the most I’ve ever run up to that point in my life. I was doing the thing that I thought I hated so much and was so bad at. I began to understand the appeal.

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I even convinced my family from time-to-time to join me for a beach run

It definitely wasn’t easy though. I was born with a heart murmur, so a lot of my training revolved around learning to manage it, listen to it…and when to stop. (But isn’t that just like anything else in life?)

SIDE NOTE: I genuinely hate mentioning having a heart murmur. To this day, it presents itself as more of a mental block than a physical one. But when I do cross the line and push myself slightly over that edge where I feel it’s affects, it scares me. I am aware that I need to really listen to my body and not push myself too far, but at the same time I need to differentiate between my physical limitations and mental obstacles. It’s a constant struggle that I hate having to deal with. But to put things in perspective, I shouldn’t be complaining because there are a lot of people that suffer from much more serious conditions. I am definitely grateful I am able to do the things I am able to do.

Anyways, to calm my anxieties about this part of my running journey, I saw a cardiologist to get the official OKAY. I remember this doctor’s visit vividly because it was the first time I ever addressed my heart murmur as more than something my parents told me I had. The cardiologist, who also runs competitively, validated that while I do have a heart murmur, I could run the 10K. He pushed me during the tests to really gauge how much control I had over it and he was impressed. That gave me a sense of confidence I had never felt before.

When May came around, I actually felt pretty ready for the San Diego Safari Park 10K. I had so much adrenaline running through me that morning that I didn’t have an appetite (bad idea) and was actually shaking of nervousness. However, once the race started, it seemed to fly by. It was such a great introduction into the running community because everyone had positive energy pulsing through them and while running is definitely a solo sport, I felt like I was part of a big team. I was also lucky to have shared the experience with one of my college roommates and one of my best friends from back home.

Up with the confidence

After feeling so good about the race, I gave myself a little break from running and working out. I spent the summer enjoying being back in the South Bay and spending my time with family and friends. I turned 22 and was really comfortable with my body the way it was. I didn’t run much during summer 2014, but in order to stay somewhat active, I took up rock climbing with my cousins and friends. This was the first time I realized that upper body strength is just as important as strong legs. It actually makes me laugh remembering these moments of realization. DUH! Of course upper body is just as important as lower body strength. BALANCE IS KEY for everything in life.

It was during this time that my older brother introduced me to weight lifting as well. I’ve been interested in it for a long time, but always observed and never practiced. So, I started learning the basics. But that’s all. I learned a few things and didn’t really progress much. THEN, my final semester at SDSU came around. DUN DUN DUN.

Efforts to stay active

From August – December 2014, my focus strayed away from fitness as a main source of happiness to savoring EVERY last moment of my college experience. I hiked whenever I had the time to, I truly enjoyed my internship and freelance PR experiences, I tried to put myself out there more whether socially or emotionally, I went to Disneyland as much as I could, I made it a goal to increase the frequency of “yes” leaving my mouth as opposed to “no.” Which I did and I regret nothing 🙂

After I officially finished my time at SDSU, all I had was work. In order to fill my time, I joined the gym that was across the street from my apartment and out of pure spontaneity, signed up for my second race: my first half marathon.

I began running again, printed out a schedule and posted it on my wall. I told myself that I would stick to it and check off each day. On the days I wasn’t running, I worked out target parts of my body to start building up strength. It felt good to develop my own schedule that didn’t revolve around classes and school-related activities.

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I even bought myself new running shoes to bring me through my training ahead of me.

Running through times of transition

Honestly, training for this half marathon was a very on-and-off process, which I definitely paid for during the race itself. I was going through a very interesting few months prior to the race. I was only working part time, as well as continuing to do freelance PR projects on the side, but the combination did take a lot out of me at the end of the day. Additionally, I had plans to move out of my SD apartment by the end of April, so that whole process required plenty of time and effort. Whenever I made trips back home in the South Bay, I tried to sneak a run in.

By the time I was officially back in the South Bay, I veered off of my running schedule. I got distracted by the move and being surrounded by my family and friends 24/7 again. At this point, I told myself that because it’s my first half, it’s just about finishing. So I ran whenever I could…or felt like it.

May 2015 became even busier as I used those first two weeks to prepare to finally walk across that Viejas Arena stage. After the commencement ceremony, it was all about getting ready to visit Portland for one of my best friend’s 23rd birthday. Luckily for me, I was able to sneak in a run and work out while I was there to counter-act some of the indulgences I was caving into.

The busiest July EVER

June through July became very gym-oriented. I still ran, but I upped the amount of times I went to the gym, especially before I started my new internship…my first in the South Bay.

I purposefully and maybe even foolishly made July 2015 my most ambitious month in the year:

  • July 3rd: me and my older brother’s graduation party
  • July 4th: Independence Day celebration with the family
  • July 6th: first day of my new internship
  • July 7th: turned 23, celebrated with my family
  • July 12th: day trip to Santa Barbara
  • July 18th: HALF MARATHON DAY!
  • July 24th – 26th: Birthday trip to Vegas
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Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara ❤ 7/12

 

So, with all the activities that happened prior to the half marathon on July 18th, I balanced gym and running time as much as I could. It was hard emotionally and physically because every run seemed to be getting harder instead of easier. I suffered from shin splints and ankle pain, but I pushed through anyway.

Thought process through my first half marathon

The morning of the half marathon, I was in disbelief. I just went through the motions of my pre-race routine. Woke up at 4am, changed, ate breakfast and at around 5:30am, my two best friends and I were on our way to Huntington Beach to bib pick up. It was gloomy and rain was expected, so I was relieved that it wouldn’t be hot.

Start time was 7 am and when my friends asked me if I was ready, I said I wasn’t. At that point, all the days I didn’t run and all the days I felt pain while running were on my mind…which probably wasn’t the best train of thought. When the announcement was made to gather at the start line, I was still in disbelief.

It didn’t hit me until I was about one mile into the race that I was in for a few hours of this…of running on my own. I had never traveled 13.1 miles by foot until that day. At around the two mile mark, I felt my ankles hurting already and was mad at myself. I’m glad I was able to text my friends so I could feel their support even as I ran further away from them. It wasn’t until mile three or four, (I think…all the miles seemed to have blended in my mind at this point) when I got a runner’s high. I took my time and kept repeating to myself that it was finally happening.

I even got emotional at multiple points during the race. I was alone for majority of the race since I decided to not push myself to run any faster than I needed to and it was during these moments when I was able to enjoy the view and think…a lot. Around mile eight, I actually got embarrassed when I realized I was tearing up. I don’t know exactly why I was getting emotional. I think it may have been a combination of my body yelling “hey you are tired, maybe you should sit, my mind yelling back “NO! Keep going!,” the view of the beach filled with early-risers getting their morning surf in and constantly being reminded that I was actually still running.

The second time I got emotional was when I met up with my two friends who decided to join me for the last 3-4 miles of the race. I almost cried when I saw them running towards me. Up until that point, I was telling myself “almost there,” “running with Tina and Mojo will be easier,” “when you see them that means you are more than 3/4 of the way through” and many similar thoughts. So when I finally saw Tina running towards me I thought it was someone else at first. Then I saw Mojo and it sunk in that they were with me until the end.

It was this last leg of the race that the clouds decided to clear, the temperature rose to 80 degrees and my calves decided to start giving out on me. I spent the last 3 miles running then walking, running then walking. I was so mad at myself because I felt like I was failing and every half mile seemed to go by SO SLOW.

Mind you, the whole time, Tina and Mojo were there to encourage me, to tell me that I was almost there. I appreciated all of it then and I appreciate it much more now, but during that time, I was just past that phase when verbal encouragement helped. It was all mental at that point. I almost hyperventilated at one point because I felt my heart murmur acting up. I’m glad Mojo and Tina were there to remind me to breathe and slow down.

Finishing…that’s all

The last mile and a half SUCKED. My body kept telling me to sit. Even when I finally walked across the finish line, I resisted not plopping down right there. I put on a smile of gratitude for the race organizers as they cheered for me and offered me refreshments as I crossed the line. Out of the couple of hundred people that signed up for the small race, I came in absolute LAST. Which meant the staff was waiting for me to finish so they can clean up and get out of the heat. The fact that I was absolutely last, makes me laugh at myself, but am not upset about. I don’t even remember my time to be honest. All of the combined miles I walked definitely affected my time. My triumph comes with having successfully traveled 13.1 miles by foot for the first time ever.

I was just happy to finish. I didn’t even want to do anything after that. But, in order to gain the calories back, my friends and I went to eat. Which was a bad idea at first because all I felt was nauseous. It was so hard for me to eat with out feeling like it was going to come back up. But I forced myself because I knew the shaking I was experiencing was from hunger. It took a while for my body to transition from what I call “survival mode” to “normal mode.”

After that, my friends and I went to grab boba and enjoy the down pour of rain that decided to happen AFTER the race. Anyways, I came home and was just relieved and happy with myself. All of those months of squeezing in runs, while not consistent, helped give me the strength to actually finish.

When will my next race be? I don’t know. For now, I just want to concentrate on gaining strength by putting in gym time. People have asked me if I ever see myself running a full marathon. That amount of miles scares me. I can’t fathom using my legs and feet to get myself to travel that far at this point in my life. So my answer is: MAYBE. If I would do another race, it would be another half marathon. The goal would be to not just finish, but to make decent time.

What I learned

So, what did this journey teach me? It taught me a new level of respect. I look at my medal laying beside my bib number on my desk and have never respected athleticism more. Fitness, not only running, but a lifestyle of fitness, is an amazing thing to have a passion for. Fitness is a mental and physical cycle of realizing you are weak, working the parts of your body that are weak, feeling the physical break down of your muscles, feeling the strength gained from that hard work and doing it all over again.

True athleticism to me is more than aesthetics. A person that truly lives a healthy lifestyle works out to become a better version of themselves on a daily basis. Majority of my life, I looked at self-improvement in a mental sense: self-confidence, self-acceptance, furthered education, etc. But in order to really live a healthy lifestyle, the physical must accompany that mental drive. Running is just one of the many physical activities that push you towards that sector of self-improvement. Training and running my first half marathon has redefined my idea of balance. From this point on, I will always have a deeper and more meaningful reason to stay active.

So, I encourage and commend anyone out there that has their mind set on some sort of fitness goal. It’s easy to be tempted and to stray away from working out. But, if you keep reminding yourself the reasons why you are putting yourself through the pain and effort, IT’S WORTH IT…just for the natural post-workout high and confidence boosts alone. Also, I’m not opposed to well-deserved rewards. Hence why I scheduled a celebratory Vegas trip the weekend after my race.

It’s not about the number on the scale, it’s not about looking good in a bathing suit, it’s about living a life that always looks to improve and learn…it’s a race against no one but your past self. The aesthetics are just a bonus 😉

Sincerely,

❤ Mez

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15 little things that make me happy

15 little things that make me happy

 

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Let’s throw it back to August 2014 when I was anticipating my last semester at SDSU and my wonderful friends from back home drove from the South Bay to SD for our 2nd annual camping trip. To my friends that were on this trip, SURPRISE! I have the lost and forgotten photos from Tristan’s camera! He recently and sneakily gave them to me after asking him if I could use them for a blog post 🙂 He didn’t even know I blogged….rude.

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Time continues to baffle me with how fast it goes by. I’m writing this post on one of those rare rainy days in San Diego and flipping through these photos reminds me of how long ago this trip happened. When ever I come back from a camping trip I always feel as if I just returned  from a retreat. Even though sleeping on a floor in a tent and waking up even earlier than usual for a whole weekend doesn’t necessarily sound like a relaxing vacation, it’s more reinvigorating of an experience for me than staying in a hotel. Unlike most hotel experiences, with camping, I don’t have to go anywhere else to make the experience worthwhile. Having a healthy hiatus from social media during this time also doesn’t hurt.

I sincerely think that the virtual absence of social media is a huge contributing factor to that zen factor that comes with camping. Don’t get me wrong, we all still had our phones and cameras with us, but because there was horrible signal, no one was pulled into the mindless scrolling of social media.

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Looking through these photos also reminded me of how it was a combination of little things that made this camping trip one of my favorite memories with my friends. Moments like working together to set up tents, everyone laughing at how sorry my football throw was, busting a mission to cook bomb food (we had kbbq and pho…just sayin’), playing haky sack until it got too dark to see our own feet, taking an unintended three-hour hike because we got lost (at least we were all together) or realizing on this hike just how quiet it can be…and how unbelievably renewed I felt closing my eyes to enjoy it. These are all minor things, but when weaved together, made the trip as memorable as it was.

I’m all about reminding myself to appreciate life as it is regardless of where I’m at because otherwise, we can always find a reason to be wound up about something. It’s humbling to know that there are people out there that would gladly take on the struggles I consider difficult and kill for the opportunities that I’ve been blessed have. Whether it’s taking a moment to enjoy my surroundings before bee-lining my way to my car to head to work, calling my mom a billion times in one day because I just want to hear a supporting voice, recognizing my little victories of the day, shrugging off awful moments, it’s necessary in order to continue down a path of happiness. Which brings me to this list. I believe that an existence of general happiness consists of, like I mentioned previously, a series of positive moments weaved together. Que devil’s advocate: but Melissa, what happens when all my moments are negative ones? One, that’s a lie. Two, you are being dramatic and three…you can ALWAYS find a positive take-away from a negative situation.

So, with that, I present you with this list of minor things that bring me joy.

15 Little Things that Make me Happy (in no particular order)

  1. Stepping into Barnes & Noble and getting that refreshing whiff of book smell – I should probably support the business more by purchasing more books, but I usually just enjoy browsing and getting work done there.
  2. Camping and everything that comes with it – really getting to star gaze, hiking, crisp air, not wearing make up. These are all happy-inducing actions.
  3. YouTube – To explain this would reveal how weird I really am. So I won’t delve into it. #TeamInternet
  4. Walking through Ikea during an OFF time – you all know what I mean. I want to imagine myself in these idealistic rooms with out strangers all up in it! Plus, the ice cream.
  5. Being in the presence of my family – we don’t even have to be deliberately hanging out with each other. Just hearing the sounds of my family all doing their own thing through out the house, it brings about a comfort that can’t be duplicated.
  6. Exploring – Whether it’s hiking, driving somewhere scenic or going on food adventures, if I’m doing it with people I love, then it’s a great time.
  7. Thrift shopping – I walk in with $20, I walk out with quirky pre-loved clothes and other items that for some reason convinced myself I needed. I some how convince myself these things describe my life and therefore I purchase them in fear it would end up in the wrong hands.
  8. Getting work done at the library or a cute coffee house  – I can be productive, but when I do day dream, I can people watch or enjoy the ambiance of the space.
  9. A charged phone – yeah.
  10. Arts & crafts – I’m not particularly great at art, but I do like doing artsy things. Getting my tinker on is a stress reliever.
  11. A good quality hug from someone I want to be hugged by – I’m not much a “touchy-feely” person, but when I do desire a hug and it’s a good one….yes. Like Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland? Great hugger.
  12. Movies – I ❤ cinematography, quality acting, a great score, enticing writing styles, all of it. I’m the person that buys the Blu-Ray DVD just to watch the 6 hours of behind the scenes extras. Also, I like watching movies multiple times in different periods of my life to see if I catch something different or view it from a different perspective.
  13. Ice cream – I can never decide between pistachio, butter pecan and good ‘ol chocolate chip
  14. Clear sunny days in SoCal with crisp cold air – I remember the moment I decided this was one of my favorite things. I was about 10- years-old and I decided one afternoon that I wanted to lay down on my front porch to look at the sky. I breathed in the crisp air, felt the cold porch beneath me, felt the warm sun on my skin and thought, “this is my sh*t.” Just kidding, I probably just smiled and continued doing whatever 10-year-olds do.
  15. Power Naps –  Naps in general are not appreciated until one ventures into their college years. But mastering power naps are sometimes even more satisfying than the rest gained from the nap. When I successfully take a 45 minute nap, I feel like I perfect life at that moment and that’s a victory in itself isn’t it?

That’s it! There a11047001_911306135567188_853034195_nre definitely more things in life that result in my happiness, but in an effort to not bore you, I limited myself to 15. It’s so easy to fall into a habit of negativity, so exercises like these can potentially help you pan out to see the bigger picture. I encourage you to take some time to think about 15 minor things, actions and places that make YOU happy. Trust me, it can be therapeutic. Then, next time you are feeling down, read your list and do those 15 things. YOUR WELCOME. Share with me what little things make YOU happy 🙂

Sincerely,

❤ Mez

Let me explain…

Note to readers: I just wanted to say thank you for your patience. I’ve been experiencing a mixture of writers block and lack of inspiration after finishing my undergraduate studies at  San Diego State University this past December. But I’m back! I am finally getting into somewhat of a groove of  my post-graduation schedule and plan to post on a more consistent basis. Apologies in advance for the somewhat randomness of this post, it’s been a while! I’m a little rusty 😛 Now, onto the post!

Much needed laptop hiatus

I told myself that 2015 will be the year that I do more of what I love now that I don’t have any school work to worry about…and blogging more often is one of them. I discovered that one of the main reasons I developed a lack of inspiration was because writing became more of a chore than a leisurely past-time. The combination of my class work and work assignments had me constantly staring at a computer screen, so by the end of the day, I just wanted to separate myself from that portal of stress: my laptop.

After all of that stress, I fortunately had the opportunity to spend a full three weeks back in my hometown for the holidays before returning back to San Diego to start settling into the post-undergraduate lifestyle. My initial thought was that because I would have more time on my hands, I would be blogging more often. That apparently did not happen. I found myself fully immersed in wanting to spend quality time with my family and reconnect with my friends that I hadn’t had time to catch up with until then. Other than hopping on my  laptop to do some work remotely, I was, for the the most part, separated from it.

I figured that the purpose of my blog is to essentially document my life. But how can I document my life in any shape-or-form if I don’t take the time to experience it! So, that’s what I did. It was nice to take that time to rejuvenate. It reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such a supportive home base filled with people that I always look forward to seeing when I visit. The following photos capture just some of the memories I made with my family this past holiday season (unfortunately I neglected to bring my camera to friend-related events, so my pictures of those experiences are non-existent):

However, once I got back to San Diego, I jumped right back into my work schedule and because I am currently working on a pretty big project, again, I began separating myself from my computer at the end of the day. I noticed that I would hop on my phone and get stuck in the black hole of mindless and endless scrolling. I fell once more into the blogging-hiatus hole.

Penciling-in leisure time

With all of that said, I’m going to try my best to give myself time to blog. I just need to remind myself that it’s something I enjoy doing. If that means literally having to pencil in designated blog time, SO BE IT! It’s important to take some time out of the day to do something enjoyable, even if it needs to be scheduled in. I’ve always had a knack for organization and when paired with motivation, I am known to get a lot of things done. If I continue to ride this current wave of motivation I should be able to maintain at least a semi-consistent blog schedule.

I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to keeping myself organized. You might ask: Why don’t you utilize Google Calendar and phone reminders? Well, I do and they are very helpful and quite frankly, more eco-friendly, but in order for things to stick in my brain, I need to write things out. I love making lists, color-coding them and actually checking things off. There’s something about taking a pen to paper and crossing things off a list that is very satisfying.

So what do I use to stay organized?

  • Highlighters: Color-coding things helps me differentiate between items in my planner.
  • Brain Storm Notebook: I’ve had this notebook for a while. I believe it was a gift from my friend Annie. I’ve been using this notebook every day at work to write quick notes, make short to-do lists and ultimately, brainstorm. Having a notebook handy helps me visualize what can be done, what needs to be done and what will be done during my shift.
  • Lilly Pulitzer Large Agenda: I am in LOVE with this agenda. The colors, themes and extra pages make it enjoyable to use. But most importantly, the dual layout of a monthly and weekly view of the year allows me to plan things for the long-term and have room to add details in the short-term.
  • GOALS book: The GOALS book was most recently given to me as a graduation gift. It’s the perfect addition to my organization kit because it serves as a constant reminder of the reason I work hard. Inside are prompts and forms that make it easy to visualize, outline and create a realistic plan to achieve both short-term and long-term goals. It’s pretty much amazing. Thanks Annie ❤
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Organization is key!

Let it be twenty-fifteen

On the note of organization and this year’s goals, I’m anxious and excited to see what this new year will bring now that I have officially finished my undergraduate studies. I have overall goals for myself and my career, but one thing I’ve learned from 2014 is that regardless of the plans I make and strive for, what’s more important is how I deal with and overcome the unexpected situations that will inevitably come my way.

The stress that often engulfed me during my undergraduate career was due to the constant struggle that is the journey to stability. But how can I someday enjoy stability with out having learned from the struggle and appreciated it? I needed to realize that it’s about enjoying every part of the journey whether it is a great moment or a low one; I need to let it be. By accepting every experience for what it is gives me the opportunity to look at the bigger picture. It reminds me to be grateful for even being able to feel.

Stress, although a very essential part of growth in life, has overwhelmed me way too many times in 2014. I want 2015 to be the year I allow myself to say yes to more new experiences and to remind myself to enjoy the present while still striving for betterment in the future. It’s all about balance.

If life is a collection of experiences, I want a diverse collection. This year I definitely plan on taking advantage of Groupon and trying different things, whether it’s a new yoga class, a painting class or seeing a show, I want to do it all! (Plus, I’m sure I’ll get them for pretty good prices 😛 )

What new things have you tried so far? I recently went snowboarding for the first time this past weekend. The chair lifts and inclines were scary, it hurt to fall, but overall it was so much fun. I definitely want to go back and get better at it!

What resolutions?

It’s still early enough in the new year for resolutions to be a hot topic. At the turn of 2015, it worried me that I wasn’t motivated to make a list this year, but then I realized that instead of making a list of things I will most likely forget in about a month, why not live this year based on the following statements and questions:

  • Work hard and stay focused. 
  • Does this make you happy? If yes, good job. If not, why are you doing it? 
  • Say yes to new things more often.
  • This moment is a good one. Take it in. 
  • Will this decision put me closer to achieving [x] goal? 
  • Remember to breath and take some time for yourself. Then go back to working hard. 
  • You are worth more than you think. 

I think by constantly reminding myself of the above, I will constantly be working towards self-improvement and that’s what I ultimately want out of not only this year, but my life in general. I never want to stop learning and growing as an individual and neither should you!

…and with that, I’ve reached the end of this hodge podge of a blog post. I just wanted to say again that I’m grateful for your patience. Even though it’s almost February, I wish you and yours a goal-oriented, hard-working and memory-filled year! Remember to try something new this year. I know I will be and most likely sharing it here 🙂

Sincerely,

Mez ❤

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My Writing Journey

Recently, I had the pleasure of working on this small video project with my childhood friend Vanessa.  She is currently teaching a fifth grade class in San Jose and saw blogging as a fun way for the kids to witness their writing progress throughout the year. She asked me to discuss how writing and blogging as helped me grow as an individual and writer. It was interesting to have time to really think about just how much writing has impacted the direction my life has gone. Thank you Vanessa for this opportunity, it was great fun!

Without further delay, welcome to my blog Rocketeers! Enjoy the video 🙂

My 22nd Birthday

I can honestly say that my 22nd birthday was my favorite thus far. I recently turned 22 and I couldn’t be happier about how my day went! It was relaxing and of course filled with too many sweets (I didn’t mind). I enjoy spending my actual birthday relaxing and spending it with a few people. I think I decided that I would much rather do something small after celebrating my 18th birthday Filipino-style. Birthdays always make me reminisce so I decided to take a look back on that day.

Fancy Birthdays

It is typical Filipino tradition for a girl to have a Debutante Ball on her 18th birthday. It usually includes a big white dress, 18 “Roses” or gentlemen in the girl’s life  (family and friends) that give her a rose and dance with her, 18 “Candles” or women in her life that give her a speech that usually results in happy tears, a court of 18 couples (friends of the debutante) that performs a waltz, good food, a beautiful expensive cake and a second dress for the debutante to change into after the formal program is over. Basically, a coming of age non-wedding. The point of me rehashing a piece of Filipino tradition is because I had one of those, a “Debut.” It was much smaller, still beautiful, but also still such a big, expensive affair. Don’t get me wrong, I am infinitely grateful for my parents, family and friends for wanting to be a part of the celebration of my existence in the world. However, the whole ordeal made me realize that I don’t need an extravagant spectacle for my birthday. I enjoy the simple things in life. So cliche, but hey, it’ the truth. Below are some pictures from the night of my “Debut.”

My point here is that while that whole night was one for the books, my actual 18th birthday was equally as memorable. At midnight my cousin Val and my brother brought me to Seven Eleven to buy my first lottery tickets and started the Krispy Kreme birthday doughnut tradition. In the morning, my brothers and mom took me to a cute crepe cafe in downtown Long Beach for brunch (because my brother knew I loved crepes) and walked around 2nd Street browsing the shops. That’ all this girl needs!

It was such a mellow, relaxing day set aside from planning napkin colors, napkin rings, plate colors, food and cake tasting. Although those are moments to remember as well, I prefer spending my day of birth with those that are close to me and understand me the most as opposed to hundreds of people witness me make a spectacle of myself. It feels selfish. But I’m not going to lie, I look back at my Debut now and I don’t regret it one bit! Although, I’m sure my parent’s wallets do…thanks Mom and Dad!

Feelin’ 22

However, I digress. Going back to the original reason for this post, how I spent my 22nd birthday. I was busy trying to finish repainting my room the evening leading up to my birthday. So when my brother told me to get ready to go to Krispy Kreme at 10 p.m., I was completely covered in paint and obviously not ready to leave the house. My cousin Kaelin was dropped off at my house and my brother drove to pick up my cousin Jeff to participate in my birthday doughnut tradition. I was feeling self-conscious because of  all the paint, but my brother reminded me that the tradition was never glamorous. As you can see from the pictures above, we were all in our pajamas when it started!

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Lucky number seven!

I slept on the living room couch that night after watching The Parent Trap and I woke up the next morning to my mom opening the front door and bringing in balloons for me. She does that every year and I think it’s the cutest thing. I’m not much of a balloon person, but I appreciate them from my mom. Anyways, I got up, made myself an acai bowl for breakfast (yum!) while my brother got ready for his summer class. When my mom and I were about to leave to pick up Val, my brother found out that he didn’t have class so we decided to include him in our afternoon plans.  We picked up my brother after the girls got pedicures 🙂

After the pamper session, it was time for lunch so my brother drove us to the Anaheim Packing District. Up until that day, I was hearing and seeing so much about the place. Val visited a couple of weeks prior and said that I would enjoy it because of the aesthetics of the place. She was right, I loved it. It was definitely right up my alley. If you don’t know what the Anaheim Packing District is, it’s a series of buildings in Anaheim that have been restored into a unique gathering place for events and vendors of all sorts. The Packing House, a restored citrus Packing House, is a two-story building with various food/drink/dessert vendors. It’s an interesting place to try something new or something old with a twist. Check out the vendors in the link above! All of the vendors are unique in design and product. There are swinging benches, plenty of tables, cushions and chairs to enjoy your food/drink of choice and plants galore scattered through out the whole of the building.

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Panoramic view of the Anaheim Packing House (PC: my brother Michael)

We ate lunch at Rolling Boil, a hot pot spot. Hot pot is an East Asian stew consisting of a metal pot with broth of your choice in which you cook different types of meats and vegetables. It also includes a variety of dipping sauces for the cooked items and is served, at least at this establishment, with rice. I had never tried hot pot or shabu shabu (Japanese version of a similar dish) and I liked it! (To my friends that have been wanting me to try it: it finally happened!) My brother and Val have tried hot pot and shabu shabu before so it was fun to see my mom experience this new type of meal with me. Besides almost being overcome with how spicy the spicey broth was, she thought it was delicious.

After sweating from the heat of not only the broth itself, but the spice, we all went upstairs to fall in line for PopBar, a vendor that sells handmade gelato on a stick. I had seen a lot of Instagram photos of popsicles from PopBar, so even though I waited approximately 30 minutes to order, I was looking forward to getting a taste. I got pistachio, half-dipped in dark chocolate, topped with almonds and coconut shavings….AMAZING. My mouth is watering as I’m typing this. It’s a bit pricey, but I think it’s worth it. We took our pops to the nearest cushion and had a bit of a photo shoot. The cashier of course said “don’t forget to hashtag popbar Anaheim!” which I did of course. My name is Melissa and I am an abuser of hashtags. #noshame WP_20140707_001

After becoming almost too full to function, we drove back home and dropped Val off. It was late afternoon by the time we made it back to the house and as I was trying to doze of into a short food coma, my Dad came from work, said “Happy Birthday!” and handed me this bad boy.

TOO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! Thanks Dad 😀

I was so surprised!! I mentioned wanting a DSLR ONCE to my brother in a random conversation and had no idea my Dad was listening. Now that I think about it, my brother probably told my Dad (duh!) I never expected to receive one because I know how expensive they can be. I was actually planning on saving up for one, but leave it to my Dad to beat me to it! He is the best at getting deals on anything technology-based, so I’m sure he found a good deal somewhere, which I’m happy about. I am ecstatic to have a high quality camera that I can use to capture memories and share great-quality pictures on this blog! After all of the camera excitement, I took a much needed nap, woke up, had dinner and cake with my family, tried to take pictures with the new camera and went to a local bar for a few drinks with my brother and Val.

The night ended with a run to In’n’out for animal-style fries. Who could ask for a better birthday? Every time July 7th comes around, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who unconditionally care about me. My family and my friends are all I need. They honestly spoil me way may too much and I’m grateful they think I deserve it. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed rehashing how I spent my first day as a 22-year-old. Cheers to days that remind me that a happy life consists of nothing more than spending my time with people I love.

❤ Mez

Summer Adventures in Los Angeles

I unexpectedly found myself in the “City of Angels” multiple times these past two weeks. On the 13th, I brought my friend Vanessa to accompany me while I interviewed for a marketing internship in Westwood Village. In order to avoid the usual traffic with the additional fear of added traffic from UCLA’s graduation, we arrived about two hours early for my interview and ended up exploring the shops around the area before I headed to my interview. The interview was walking distance from the central area of cute boutiques, cafes and trendy food stops. Me and Vanessa ended up eating “lunner” at Native Foods Cafe, a vegan-based restaurant. Being the vegetarian I am, I was excited to share this place that I discovered that past weekend while eating with a couple of friends prior to heading to a bonfire in the area. I ordered a Twister Wrap accompanied by sweet potato fries and lavender lemonade. I unexpectedly loved their lavender lemonade. I have been wary about lavender-flavored things because of an odd experience I had with lavender ice cream that I tried during a vacation in Berkeley, California. Anyways, I digress. Below is a picture of the delectable wrap that I enjoyed that afternoon.

Amazing all-vegan Twister wrap, Sweet Potato Fries from Heaven and refreshing lavender lemonade ❤

On the 17th, I took the Metro (public transportation system) to Hollywood with my aunt and cousin. It was the first time I had ever taken public transportation to this area and it definitely was an experience. It took about an hour and a half to arrive at Hollywood and Highland. If you are unfamiliar with the area, this stop brought us right to the heart of Hollywood. We were on the street where the Dolby Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame and Madam Tussauds Wax Museum is. It was interesting to step into the shoes of a tourist because even though I have lived in Los Angeles County all my life, I never really took the time to really explore the areas LA is famous for.

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A couple of days later on the 19th, my friend Joseph and I found ourselves at what I now believe is my favorite spot in Downtown LA: The Last Bookstore. If you are ever exploring DTLA, make a visit! It’s a wonderful place to get lost for an hour or two. Not only are there a variety of books to choose from (at bargain prices!), but there are events that are held there and art displays on the top floor. Me and Joseph decided to go because we were talking the night before about how we both wanted to find new books to continue our summer leisure reading. We spent about three hours in there roaming around. It got a bit stressful when I couldn’t find several books on a list I was referring to. But not to fear, we both found a book in the end! I loved everything about the place; the quirkiness and artistic, cafe-esque atmosphere was right up my alley.

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After spending an unexpected and ridiculous amount of time in the bookstore, we visited Little Tokyo to have a late lunch. It was a warm and clear day in LA, so it was perfect walking weather. We ate at a small mom and pop restaurant…with a name I seem to have forgotten. But none the less, it was delicious. I got vegetable udon noodle soup which was delicious!

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After returning home from Little Tokyo, I ended up leaving not very long after to go back to the LA area with my girl friends.  We got together to visit Vanessa (previously mentioned above) at Loyola Marymount University and enjoy happy hour at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was the first time in a long while we were able to get together, minus our friend Kristina, who was being an awesome human being and volunteering as a camp activities coordinator for the Ronald McDonald for Good Times summer camp. We ate dinner and specifically calculated our time to finish dinner at the beginning of happy hour 😛

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After a few drinks, we found ourselves a few doors down at Dave & Buster’s. We took some fun photo booth pictures and played games until closing.

Photo booth silliness <3
Photo booth silliness ❤

All-in-all, I had a great week of unexpected LA adventures and I couldn’t be happier about it. I loved the spontaneity of it all. I am definitely taking this summer to unwind, relax and enjoy the company of my family and friends. It has been a great year and I had the pleasure of witnessing a lot of my friends graduate from college. We are all finally home this summer to live it up as much as possible! I hope you enjoyed recounting my LA adventures 🙂 I’m sure I’ll have more adventures to share through out the season.

Sincerely,

Mez ❤

My Thoughts on School Shootings

How We All Miss the Point on School Shootings by: Mark Manson

These are my thoughts after reading the article linked above: ^

On May 23, 2014, a school shooting at the University of California Santa Barbara took place. Ever since then I have been reading article upon article, a series of posts on Facebook of a variety of opinions about the shooting and have been talking to my friends and family about it. I had the urge in the days following the shooting to share my thoughts about what happened, but every time I attempted to write that post, I always froze. I didn’t know what my thoughts were exactly, I didn’t know how to feel about it other than sad and confused.

I have a couple of friends that have attended UCSB, one that actually lives in the Isla Vista community. Fortunately, he was not present during the shooting and fortunately one of the victims he knows personally is recovering in the hospital.

I was talking to my dad and my brother about the shooting and introduced the topic with: “what do you think of this?” Then I proceeded to read a Facebook post that was on my newsfeed written by a friend from school. The post spoke about misogyny and the patriarchal society that puts pressure on both men (to be dominant and “win” women) and women to submit to this type of treatment and fear for their safety on a daily basis from retaliation if they do not submit. As I read that post and many opinions similar, I did not fully agree and I didn’t know why. I am a woman. I relate to a lot of the #YesAllWomen hashtag that is trending on Twitter at the moment. Why don’t I agree with this point of view? I didn’t know until I read this article by author Mark Manson called “How We All Miss the Point on School Shootings.”

When I was speaking with my dad and brother, my dad stood on the grounds that the patriarchal society is a human instinct that would continue to be present even if a Noah and the Arc-type situation would happen, wiping out all humanity and starting again. He says that it is in nature and that, unfortunate as it is that it sacrifices true equality, it will remain. My dad is not a sexist in anyway, so do not judge him for this opinion. He just simply believes that would be extremely difficult to overturn how society has been functioning for centuries, which is a perfectly fair point.

My brother, like me, had no real standpoint on the whole situation. He just kept asking me: how would we solve a problem like this? (referring to school shootings in general) He kept asking me what I thought was the core problem and as he kept asking for my opinion, for some reason I got slightly emotional. I tried to rule out any of the labels Rogers (the shooter) was given: a misogynist, he was mentally ill and/or unstable, etc.

I just told my brother that the solution would be: “Maybe to remember to be nice to one another? A smile, a nod, eye contact with random people that you encounter on a daily basis; I believe that those small actions can make a difference.” I mentioned how everyday Ellen DeGeneres (one of my all-time favorite people) closes her show everyday with “be kind to one another.”

From there, my brother agreed and told the story about a suicidal man that left a letter saying something close to the following: “I will walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off today. The only thing that will prevent me from doing it is if someone I pass by while walking acknowledges me or says hello.” He walked halfway across the bridge and jumped because no one gave him just a smidgen of the time of day to even smile at him.

Stories about shootings and suicidal plans in particular make me sad because it all boils down to how people treat each other. Regardless of a variety of viewpoints, religions, political party affiliation, we should all treat each other with respect and kindness.

I don’t know where I’m going with this post, but I guess those are my thoughts on the UCSB Isla Vista Shooting. The shooter underneath all of the labels being cast upon him, was fully aware of what he was getting himself into. He was, as Manson mentioned in his article, following a tried-and-true formula. Rogers used the media to get the attention he wanted that he was not receiving during his life in the physical world.

It’s difficult for me to comment on the media because a significant amount of my studies in public relations involves media relations, media strategy and media writing. I am aware of the power of the media in all forms (traditional and social) and I know how the general public feels about it. Many people, especially during post-school shooting circumstances, comment on how the media sensationalizes the situation and loses site of the “point” of the shooting which typically means memorializing the victims. I’ve encountered many opinions saying that the media, by constantly reporting on the event, grant exactly what the shooter desired: fame. I agree with that statement. What I would rather see in the news is highlighting the point I mentioned earlier. The point that society as a whole needs to treat each other better; that if we all took this opportunity to evaluate ourselves and the environment we interact with in, that action in itself would better the community. I agree with Manson when he says that the reason why school shootings always take the community by surprise is because the shooters are always someone that was “hiding in plain site.”

I believe that everything happens for a reason and as unfortunate as this situation is, we should take it as an opportunity to learn and better ourselves as individuals. We have the power as individuals to make the community a better and more inviting place to be in. We need to unglue our eyes from our mobile devices once in a while and pay attention to the world around us as it is happening. By living in the present, having an open mind and being compassionate for others in whatever situation they may find themselves in, I strongly believe that less violence would occur.

Anyways, I encourage you to read this article. It really does touch on a lot of forgotten points that should be touched upon during such a tragic incident. My heart goes out to all those affected by the UCSB shooting. May you and your loved ones find peace. ❤

Sincerely,

Mez