7 Realistic Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Waste Today

Growing up, I never saw trash.

It was hidden from me. Why? Because I lived in one of the wealthiest cities in the entire world. Because I was privileged and privileged people pay money to not have to stare pollution in the face.

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On Being an Only Child

I am an only child. My father is also an only child and my mother was raised as an only child — which also made me an only grandchild. Not only that, but I am an only child raised by divorced parents. Parents who separated when I was not even a year old. This has shaped, influenced, and decorated my personality, my relationships and overall — my entire life.

There was a brief time during early childhood that I wanted a sibling. Okay…but you would have to share all your toys and attention, my mom had explained to me when I asked her to give me a brother or sister. Apparently, I never brought it up again. This story makes me laugh for two reasons: one, because my mother is and has always been incredibly clever and two, because it is clear what my priorities were at a young age.

Growing up, it was difficult for me to relate to my peers. I had no siblings to play with and annoy, no cousins at Thanksgiving, and my parents’ friends were in their early 20’s and nowhere near having children of their own. Children were as abstract to me as Mandarin Chinese — I did not know what to say to them nor did I understand a word they said. Neighborhood kids would come to my front door asking me to “play outside” which at the time, might as well have been a death sentence. Typical of an only child, I had spent most of my time around adults having adult conversations. You would think this would have accelerated me developmentally but it actually slowed me down.

Every human being needs peers, if not friends, that are their own age. Because I had such a challenging experience in making friends, it would be years before I developed the tools to create trusting and enjoyable friendships. It is not a coincidence that even today, my friends are on average 4-6 years older than me. Sure, being an only child allowed me to easily communicate with teachers, strangers, authority figures, and later on — potential employers. But it prevented me from “fitting in” when I was little and I personally believe that that was what I needed most.

Throughout adolescence when I was surrounded by a solid circle of friends, I hardly noticed my being an only child. Relatives and family friends no longer expressed their pity towards me or proclaimed me as putting the “only” in “lonely”. I no longer ached for that empty role in my life. Especially when all I saw at my friends’ houses were sibling screaming marathons at worst and complete avoidance at best. I was even perhaps — grateful — to go home to my own room and not fight over the remote or my clothes with anyone.

The reality of being an only child hit hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. Grandparents started aging and becoming ill. Family relationships became estranged. Babies were born. I became a mother. My friendships were no longer as close-knit as they were before due to the natural process of growing up and apart. It was around this time that I noticed that a lot of my friends were strengthening their bonds with their siblings. Without the interruption of teenage hormones and Barbie real estate wars, they were now able to see each other as friends and pillars of support. Age gaps became negligible. Their differences became endearing rather than isolating. When a parent became ill or they got their heart broken or their apartment became mold infested– they called each other first. They slept on each other’s couches. They became each others “person”. That empty space in my life was never more noticeable.

I have no aunts or uncles to give to my son. No cousins. I have no sister to make my maid of honor. No brother to tease. No siblings to seek solace in when one of my parents or grandparents inevitably passes away. No one to share stories of childhood with. There is nothing that I can do about this nor will there ever be. I am now able to accept this because although these realities are tough pills to swallow — being an only child gave me many gifts. The gift of bonding with my parents in a way I never would have had I been forced to share them. Of cherishing one-on-one relationships. Of embracing alone time happily. And most importantly — the gift of owning my entire generation… it is completely up to me how my family’s legacy continues (which is both empowering and terrifying).

Before I chose to start a family, I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to make sure my child would never put the “only in lonely”. I would give them a brother to wrestle with or a sister to giggle with late into the night. These are absolute dreams of mine. Yes, I understand that not all siblings like each other. That not all siblings get along, or even stay in touch. That some brothers are assholes and some sisters are a shame to the term “sisterhood”. Although this makes me sad at a lost opportunity for a once in a lifetime bond, it inspires me to teach my children the importance of holding onto each other in life. Because, at least from an outside perspective, there is truly no better friend than the one you have had from the start.

What My Grandma’s Dementia Has Taught Me

She looks at me but she doesn’t see me. I can sense the wheels turning in her head. Her hippocampus scans itself for any type of clue — nothing. The cortex fails her as well. She doesn’t know me but she knows she is supposed to. I smile at her, with both sympathy and disappointment, and reassure her that it is okay. Not for a second longer can I bear witness to her frustration of trying to put together who I am. I turn my face away and pour her a glass of water in an attempt to conceal the frown deeply etched into my face. Who is this woman and what has she done with my grams?

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Why Writing Embarrasses Me

“Keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.” -Erykah Badu, Call Tyrone

The hardest part about creativity is anticipating how people will react to what I create. Including my future self. I need only to read my old Myspace or Tumblr posts to experience some major cringe at what I once thought sounded so profound.

There are things that we create for ourselves and things that we create for others. True magic happens when we create something for both. For me, this is writing. But I have to be honest. I’m not confident about my writing. Every time I click “publish” on my blog, I immediately feel an overwhelming sense of dread. Do I come off judgmental? Stupid? Immature? And god forbid if I catch a grammatical or spelling error AFTER my post has been published.

I write about random things. Things I will think about during a long hot shower or during a walk around the Pearl District when it isn’t raining hard but just enough to make me feel a sentimental kind of way. Being lost in thought is a strength (and weakness) of mine. One that inspires me to create. To take photographs. To film. To write. Puzzle pieces from the past, present, and future are constantly in a synchronous tango in my mind — all of them just waiting to be synced into a 2,000 word essay. Ultimately, I’m just trying to make sense of it all and my first instinct is to share that process with the world.

Our lives appear so different but really — we are all the same. At our cores, we simply want to love and be loved. Everything else is just white noise. When I write, I am attempting to break down those superficial barriers. Those mental blocks that keep us from relating to each other. If just one person thinks, “yes, me too”, when reading one of my posts — I have achieved what I set out to do: close the gap.

My blog is public, yes. But not really. I don’t send a newsletter to my friends and family whenever I post one of my musings. I don’t advertise it and I can’t say that I am proud of it. At least not yet. Because I’m scared of it. I’m scared of being vulnerable. I’m scared of showing you all my blue. My worst fear is that my vulnerability will be used against me. That someone will laugh at me for my truth.

Not everything I write will stand the test of time. Next week I may not agree with my own opinion. This makes me want to delete anything no longer relevant to me. But I fight the urge. The urge to cover up where I began. Where I came from. I keep it out there, visible to all, in hopes that people can see how far I’ve come. That I’m not perfect. That I’m not an expert (on anything). And that I’m growing each and every day to become a better version of me.

Whenever someone reads my post, I blush. I cringe. My heart beat picks up a little bit. My foot might tap repeatedly or my eyes might shift all over the room. And yet, it’s so worth it. It’s worth it to expose myself and scream, “yes, this is me!”. People used to share stories over campfires. Myths, legends, and witch tales used to be passed down from our elders to our little children. We, as humans, are natural storytellers and although this is a screen and not a campfire — these are my stories. I hope you enjoy them.

Love,

Jamakea

How Society Tricks Women Into Shaming Each Other

Rules for a modern woman:

Be sexy but not too sexy. Cover up but not too much. Be educated but don’t make men feel inadequate or stupid. Work like you don’t have children and raise your children like you don’t work. Be proud of your postpartum body, just make sure you cover up those stretch marks and extra weight. Breastfeed your children exclusively but do so only in private so that you won’t offend anyone. Don’t be a prude but don’t sleep with too many men. Have opinions but don’t offer them unless asked.

The list goes on and on. These are impossible to follow. They are misogynistic, contradicting, oppressive, and hateful. Yes, these standards are held by men, but they are dutifully enforced by other women. We refer to this today as “shaming”, or the humiliation and judgment of other women and the choices they make.

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An Honest Letter to My 16-year-old Self

Dear 16-year-old me,

Oh, Jamakea. I wish I could reach back in time, grab you firmly by the shoulders, and let you know that everything is going to be okay.

You have been feeling abandoned this last year. Grandma fled to Mexico without a trace or any type of warning. Dad entered a serious relationship for the first time in 15 years — nevermind that his new girlfriend is only 10 years older than you. Times are changing and your relationships, the very anchors that give you stability, are not what they used to be. Especially the one that you have with yourself.

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The Hardest Part About Being a Parent (so far)

Before I had kids, hell, before I even WANTED kids, I imagined that the diapers, sleep deprivation, lack of “me” and romantic time, and the overall 24/7 responsibility of caring for another person would be nearly impossible.

Surprisingly, those ended up being the easier parts. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I could use a moment to comb my hair and get out of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing for 4 days straight. But these incredibly exhausting things are bearable — for me at least.

No one warned me about what would truly be the hardest part about parenthood:

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