This is my first post after four months of quarantine. I’ve been pretty inactive on both my blog and my Instagram, partially because I haven’t been traveling, but in bigger part, because I have been trying to digest everything that is going on in the world. I always find that writing down my thoughts helps me to work through them. And as you can imagine, I’ve been doing a LOT of writing during this time.
COVID-19 seemed to hit like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. It felt like one day it was in the peripheral news, affecting China greatly, but still not quite taking hold in the United States. And the next day, it felt like everyone knew someone who had been hospitalized due to COVID-19.
I studied Global Health in college which explains why COVID-19 has intrigued me so much. While some people are complaining that information in the news keeps changing, I find it absolutely fascinating to see the scientific method play out right in front of our eyes. It also makes me realize what little knowledge of science the average person possesses and how dangerous that lack of knowledge can be in the wrong hands.
In some ways, I feel conflicted about COVID-19. At the end of the day, most people who get it will be ok. However, there are also enough people who if they contract it, would likely die from COVID-19 or end up on a respirator. It highlights the age-old question, what is a life worth? Is it worth people losing jobs, houses, and livelihoods to save the lives of those severely impacted by COVID-19? What about people who lose health insurance as a result of losing their job, and can no longer afford the medication they need to sustain life? Sometimes I feel these two opposing sides are presented as an all or nothing, in a way that severely oversimplifies the situation at hand. As someone who is young and healthy, who has the ability to work from home, who always has food on the table, and who has the financial support from her family if things ever get really bad, I’m not sure I even have a right to weigh in here. All I know is I am thankful for the position I am currently in, and I am so thankful to my family, friends, and boyfriend for knowing I do not have to go through any of this alone.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. For the first couple of weeks, I was loving quarantine. I slept in, didn’t have to get ready and drive in traffic to work, and didn’t have 5 million plans every weekend. I finally got the break I always said I wanted. However, at about week 3, it began to set in that I hadn’t seen my friends and family, and wouldn’t see my friends or family for quite some time.
About midway through quarantine, the end of May to be specific, my boyfriend and I moved in together into a beautiful home. This was a massive step for us. We have been together for five years and it’s always been important that we move in together when it’s right for us, not because it’s cheaper financially or for any other reason. We have always dreamed of having a big housewarming party with our friends and huge families. However, that did not go exactly as expected and I was definitely feeling down the week leading up to what should have been our housewarming.
Now, as I take a step back and look at the events quarantine has caused me to miss out on (our trip to Cabo, our trip to Tulum, our housewarming party) I realize that even though it’s a bummer I didn’t get to do those fun things, I’m actually a secret fan of the quarantine lifestyle.
First off, I get to spend SO much time with my boyfriend which we’ve never had before. I hear so many women talking about how annoyed they are with having their significant others home all the time. I usually just nod in agreement or stay quiet. But the truth is I can’t relate. I am absolutely LOVING all the time I now get with my boyfriend. He loves to cook amazing dinners every night and I bake dessert. He took care of me when I got sick (homemade chicken noodle soup and all), we take rides along PCH on his motorcycle, we spend time playing in the backyard with our dog Enzo, and we simply enjoy each other’s company.
Secondly, I love not having anything to do. My whole life has been go, go, go! From taking the hardest classes I could in high school to propel me into my dream college, and then trying to build a business. All that mixed with a packed social calendar. We always joke with our friends that they need to book things at least 3 months out because we’re so busy. But, there’s a lot of truth in that joke. Quarantine has allowed us time for just the two of us, something that was exceedingly rare in the past. And, I feel our relationship is stronger because of it. In addition, taking a step back from the “always on the go” lifestyle has made me realize that I am actually a happier person when I have time to just “be.”
Last thought on quarantine…I have no idea how long this is going to last. A lot of companies are telling their employees to expect to work from home for at least the rest of the year. The future is highly uncertain. But, what is certain is how thankful I feel to be surrounded by so many loving and supporting people. Whether we’re having a socially distanced hang out outside, or keeping in touch via text/phone calls, one thing quarantine has shown me is how strong my support network is.
This has probably been the hardest thing for me to digest in the last few months. I am multi-racial. My dad is Mexican American (born and raised in the U.S.) and my mom is Black and White. When people see me, they often ask, “What are you?” Most of the time I want to respond, “I’m a person.” But, I usually respond with the answer they are looking for: my ethnic and racial background. However, growing up in very White Orange County has always left me with a bit of an identity crisis.
I am a White passing minority. My skin is enviably tan in the Winter and even tanner in the Summer. I constantly get asked, “What self-tanner do you use? Your skin is the perfect color!” My hair goes all the way down to my hips and I straighten it every day. I’m constantly asked, “Is that your natural hair or do you have extensions?” My skin is slightly oily but it keeps my face looking fresh and young. I’ve been asked, “Where do you get your work done?” (They’re referring to botox and filler, the not so secret staples in any OC Housewife’s arsenal). Nine times out of ten, these questions are asked by White women. And the truth is, I don’t use self-tanner. My skin is the product of my colorful heritage. I don’t have extensions. My thick, strong hair exists thanks to my Black and Mexican ancestors. And, I’ve never had work done. My youthful-looking skin owes thanks to good genes and a good skin care regimen.
While the physical comments I take as compliments, I have faced a plethora of other comments that were anything but. In high school, I was told the only reason I got into USC was that I’m Black. I was told the only reason I got an academic scholarship was that I’m a minority. I’ve been told that I’m not “really Black” or not “a real Mexican” more times than I can count by those same people. The truth is, everything I’ve accomplished, I’ve earned. I worked hard for my acceptance into USC and even harder for my scholarship. Just because I don’t put every aspect of my life or efforts out in the open does not mean they aren’t there. In addition, I am “really Black” and I am “a real Mexican.” And quite frankly, I’m proud of it!
Whenever I’m told that I’m not “Colorful enough” what people are really saying is that I don’t fit the stereotype of Blacks and Mexicans they have in their mind. I’m not “ghetto” or “rachet” as they say. I dress “preppy” and “nice” as if Blacks and Mexicans are incapable of exuding a polished exterior. While others may not perceive me as “Black enough” or “Mexican enough” because I don’t talk, act, or dress a certain way, I know from my past experiences that no amount of money or “White-washed upbringing” can take away the negative experiences that come with being a minority.
I remember how proud my grandfather was the day I got into USC. He would tell me about when he was a kid, he wasn’t allowed to swim in the USC pool because he was Black. I remember my mom telling me about how she has cousins who refuse any contact with her because my grandmother (White) chose to marry my grandfather (Black) and her family did not approve. I remember a trip to Louis Vuitton where I was shopping for a purse. Another customer rudely came up to me demanding help, assuming I worked there because of the way I look. I know when I go shopping at nice stores I’m immediately greeted and offered help if I’m carrying a nice purse and wearing nice clothes. Yet when I’m dressed down, in a baseball cap, and without designer labels, I’ve been followed around the store to ensure I’m not stealing anything, but never offered help. I’ve been pulled over by a police officer in LA who accused me of stealing the car I was driving because it was a nice BMW and I was a 19-year-old minority.
Fortunately, my negative experiences have been limited and none ended with me losing my life. This is a privilege I will always thank my parents for. My mom grew up in LA and my dad grew up in Pico Rivera. They both worked extremely hard to ensure my sister and I could grow up in Orange County where, yes, biases and racism still exist, but not to the point that our lives would be in danger as a result.
I’ve found the BLM movement to be a difficult one for me to digest. On one end, I see how far society has come. From my grandfather not being allowed on USC’s campus to me earning an academic scholarship to such a prestigious school. However, I also see how years of being kept down have led minorities to be poorly represented in many areas of life: politics, board rooms, and nice neighborhoods to name a few. I saw so many people “speaking out” against racism and the importance of the BLM movement. Yet, those same voices seem back to their normal programming now that the “en vogue” topic is out of season. In addition, those are the same voices that constantly told me I wasn’t “Black enough” or “Mexican enough” growing up. Hypocritical much?
As a POC I felt guilty for not posting much about the BLM movement. But, at the same time, all those years of hearing I’m not “Black enough” or not “Mexican enough” make me feel guilty for speaking up also. It’s like I don’t quite fit in anywhere. I’m not “Colorful enough” to have had any dangerous encounters with racism and bias that threatened my life, but I’m also not “White enough” that my life has been entirely free of racism and bias. And, the last thing I want to do is speak about something simply because it’s in style.
I’ve realized that the problems that exist in this world are so much deeper than a blanket statement like “systemic racism.” Does racism still exist? Absolutely. Does it single-handedly explain why black men are proportionally killed more by police than any other race? No. Are all police officers bad? No. Is it as simple as just a few bad apples in the police system? No. Things are not black and white and we would be foolish to try to push that narrative on anyone.
I don’t know the answer to what is going on in the world today. But, what I do know, is that I will continue doing everything in my power to support my fellow POC by buying from their businesses, sharing their successes, and reminding the world of the importance of celebrating and appreciating our differences and our heritages. Because, I know that I’ve never been prouder to be a Black, Mexican-American, and White female living in the United States. That being said, I do hope to see a sustainable positive change in the future.
On The New Normal
What I’ve learned during this time is we all have different passions and callings. And, what is right for one person isn’t what’s right for another. Some people took this time to learn a new language or apply to business school, others used the time to take a step back and appreciate what’s right in front of them. Some people found their voice by advocating on social media, while others found their voice by taking action within their own community in silence.
It’s a tricky and unique time we’re all trying to navigate. What’s right for one will not be right for all. Let’s take this time to reflect on our lives, and take whatever steps are necessary to make ourselves happy. Turn off the news for a day, turn off your phone for a few hours, disconnect, self-reflect, and let’s embrace what life is throwing at us in this unprecedented time. Times like these are when you see who you really are as a person.