In Case You Lose Hope | Always Try to Help

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. So naturally, I posted a picture of myself from the month of March — the month of my mental breakdown. Just to debrief for those of you who haven’t seen it: I’ve been struggling with anxiety my whole life, was diagnosed with depression at 15, and was diagnosed with PTSD last spring.

I’m not here to “fish for compliments,” but rather to say that there’s no shame in being vulnerable. I’m not ashamed of telling my story because it’s a story of how I kept fighting. I knew going back to school was going to be difficult. I’m always tired, and sometimes I find it hard to keep going. But really, getting the education and experience that I have now is all I’ve ever dreamed of.

Now, I’m going to share with you another story that’s not mine, but a story that did give me hope. This is a story my dad’s oncologist shared with me. This is one of the top oncologists in Massachusetts, if not the nation, and she took time out her busy day with patients and a family of her own to write out this story in an email. It went a little something like this:

“After some prompting, your dad did share with me that you transfered to Roger Williams. I also ask about you and how you are doing at Saint A’s. I could tell he was concerned about something. As his doctor, I encouraged him to open up a little but so he did confide to me that you had gotten sick and were in the hospital. I was sorry to hear that for both of you. Any kind of illness is a difficult thing. Certainly your dad knows that first hand.

I relayed to him a story about one of my other patients and her daughter. I have known both of them for 20 years. The daughter was just a toddler when her mother got cancer. Mom is doing great. The daughter grew up to be a lovely young woman. She went to Wellesley College where she excelled. After graduation she got a great job in Boston and an apartment with her friends. Then everything fell apart for her. I can still remember the email I received from her mom, so worried about what was happening. We got her daughter in to a good medical-mental health care. With some time and and medication adjustment she got better. She just graduated from BU with a Master’s Degree and has a wonderful boyfriend.”

She told my dad this because when you are in the midst of something like this, it’s scary for everyone. Sometimes it feels eternal and hopeless as if it will never get better. But her job is to preach over and over to her patients to take things one day at a time. At times, it may seem like hard work, but you have to keep at it. The same thing is true for my Creative Writing studies, editing for the paper, and so much more. My dad’s doctor reminded me that I, too, have supportive parents as I’m making my way down recovery road.

Someday when I have a publishing career or writing/editing for Vanity Fair, I hope I can take the time to write to someone, or, even better, help someone when I can.

I guess I didn’t preach this when I talked about my hospital stay, but mental illness isn’t one of those things you can’t power through on your own.

Moral of the story: never be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and there’s always time to help someone else out.

Did you know my goal going into college was to become a doctor? Yeah, things change, and that’s a fact. But I still want to impact people with my writing (but that’s another blog post). ☺



My Own ‘Silver Lining’s Playbook’

“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

So it’s been, what? A month since I posted? Well, sorr-ay for living my best life! I just started at my new school, and it’s been treating me wonderfully thus far. I’m going to start off by announcing that I am the new Features Editor for my school newspaper! My dream of being an editor is slowly coming true. Being an editor has taught me so much: 1) how to manage my time 2) how to be more creative 3) people skills 4) how to use InDesign (which I’ll probably use in the future) and 5) how to be relentless (in a good way). My section is already thriving with features like “club of the week,” “biweekly series: commuter issues,” and — coming soon — “Bristol businesses and RWU students.” Another thing: I’ve really gotten into American Literature and fashion. Fashion is something I’ve always been into, but there was a time when I considered fashion as a potential career.

I’m just going to keep this short and to-the-point. This is where I say I’ve found my “silver lining.” In my own version of Silver Lining’s Playbook, a girl dealing with mental illness discovers her dream/passion: editing. When I was in the hospital, one of my fellow inpatients told me I should become an editor, and that’s when I said, “he’s right.” I was a writing tutor at my previous college, and I reprised that role at my new school. I realized how much more knowledge and appreciation I’ve gained for the English language. I’ve come through the dark clouds into the bright light that silver linings represent, and while silver linings are not without their challenges, I drew strength from that silver lining to meet those challenges. I wish you all Godspeed in finding all of your silver linings — let me know when you do!

xoxo April

Regretting Regret

In life, there are going to be things we regret. I regret not taking a certain class in my senior year of high school, not choosing the right major until about a year later, the list goes on. While meditating yesterday, the little voice coming from my phone was talking about regret. Though I wanted to achieve the concept of zen — unbothered and untouched, I couldn’t help but feel irritated, if not infuriated at the thought of past relationships.

I don’t know why (blame it on biology), I just develop feelings for guys who are interested in me at first but then end up dumping me for whatever reason. Two breakups made me think, “were they ever really attracted to me? Or did they just go with it?”

Talking about relationships trigger me in a sense because I’m realizing now that I’ve always been the one to say “I like you” first. No guy has ever asked me to be their girlfriend. In a way, that has made me feel “ugly.” As a result, it tries to take everything out of me and makes me feel unworthy.

There’s this one poem by Rupi Kaur from Milk and Honey:

“he only whispers i love you 

as he slips his hands

down the waistband 

of your pants

this is where you must

understand the difference 

between want and need

you may want that boy

but you certainly 

don’t need him.”

That’s right, honey, you have to be the one to say they’re unworthy of your time and attention. You are not a weak cup of coffee, you are a strong Colombian coffee. Last night I saw this post on Facebook shared by one of my friends:

“You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? And neither does he. You’re turning your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t have value more than you value yourself.” – Toni Morrison, Sound of Solomon

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times over the course of your life, but God really does come in mysterious ways. This morning during my meditation, I’ve come across the theme of forgiveness. The little voice coming from my phone told me to think of a time when I experienced hurt — naturally, I thought of my previous relationships, and I bet anyone listening to that meditation would think the same.

“What did you feel?”

“Where did you feel it?”

“Was it a sinking feeling?”

“Did your heart tighten?”

“Did your shoulders fold inwards?”

But most importantly, how can you forgive yourself in addition to forgiving others? What would you say to yourself? In that moment, I thought of the great philosopher, HelloKaty saying, “You are not watered-down tequila, you are Patrón!”

Additionally, I learned from The Bachelorette (a show I’d never thought I’d watch), that you have to be selfish sometimes and with that, I’ve learned to forgive myself for feeling hurt, upset, etc. even my regrets. It’s all part of our humanity. Those of us who have those feelings, recognize them, own them, and move on are in a lot healthier state than those who pretend not to have any feelings, at all.

Never Settle | Getting Out Of Your Own Way And Upsetting The Balance

“We know what we deserve. We’re not stupid, but we accept something to not upset the balance.” – Unknown

My whole life my goal was to be “different” and to upset this so-called balance. Even when I was a little high school fashionista, my goal to get into the fashion industry was to start out in retail. So, when I was 16 and 17 years old, I applied to stores like Forever 21 only to find out that they accepted applications from prospects 18 and older. At the time, people my age were babysitting or working at grocery stores. I- I was already learning about marketing research (thanks to my mother). Yes, I was ambitious then — insanely ambitious, maybe a little too ambitious when applying for colleges, however.

Moreover, now a newly-minted 21-year-old, I’m looking for more than just a job. I’m looking for an internship with a book publisher. Plus, my mom signed us both up to go to a marketing event. Who knows what will come out of that? We’ll see within a week or so. I just need something that’s a) worth my time and b) will make me happy. I need something that I’ll look forward to when I wake up in the morning — something that will make my heart sing.

“No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams” – Maya Mendoza

In other words, never settle for anything that’s going to get in the way of what you really want. It’s like I learned when I was in the hospital: “Get Out Of Your Own Way.” In all honesty, I felt like my life in New Hampshire was so limited of opportunity. There is no doubt that I experimented with different career paths, from healthcare to writing to social work then back to writing. I always came back to writing. Now that I’ll be in Rhode Island full-time, this is my chance to be a more complete version of myself.


Why I’m Glad I Stayed In Rhode Island

“Sometimes to chase after your future, you have to stop running and plant yourself in one place. Take a stand and fight for what you want. And know that even after the darkest of nights, the dawn will come. And you will find a place where you don’t have to hide. A place to call home.” – Carrie Bradshaw, The Carrie Diaries

Carrie Bradshaw (the AnnaSophia Robb portrayal) says this after she decides not to go to Malibu with Sebastian. As I approach my 21st birthday, I’m starting to realize all that I’ve been through this past semester. Sure, it didn’t go as planned — nothing ever does! I’ve been places, I’ve seen/tried new things, met new people, and I’m transferring to a new college to pursue a degree in Creative Writing — all because I stayed in Rhode Island to fight for my life and for what I want. Rhode Island has become my adopted home, and I feel like I’ve been living here forever. And since living here, I’ve discovered the things that are worth standing up and fighting for.

I was originally going to write about how to achieve a healthier lifestyle, but I decided to save that for a Her Culture article. After finishing The Carrie Diaries on Netflix, I naturally sobbed… in the corner of a coffee shop lounge because I’m just sooo subtle, right? I started to think about my own future. My heart, right now, is settled in Rhode Island. I’m determined to make a name for myself instead of feeling like I have to be somebody else. As much as I love the city, I find more comfort by the water. But I’ll get to the city someday (but hopefully to New York or Boston for grad school).

This involved some bittersweet sacrifices. On Sunday, I said “that’s a wrap, SAC!” and proceeded to crying on the way home while listening to “I’ll always remember you,” “Wherever I go,” you know, those Hannah Montana songs that are bound to make you shed a tear or two (or a million). But, as a writer, I must say, when a chapter ends, you start another one because my story isn’t over yet, as said on my tattoo. This is when my mom would say, April, snap out of it, you’re going to see your friends over the summer. Well, some people are worth crying in the car for. ☺

I’m going to be 100% candid here, as always, and confess that I never thought I would make it to 21 years old. I first said this when I was 18 and at my lowest point. Well guess what? I’m turning 21 towards the end of the month, and my future is already looking up. I’ve had meetings with Creative Writing professors at my new college (whom are very accomplished, I still can’t get over the fact that I’ll be working with them for the next three years), and I’m in the process of applying to summer publishing internships. In fact, I’m being considered for a fall internship for a Providence-based magazine!

*At this time, I’d like to thank everyone who has been there for me this past semester, y’all know who you are ♥ *

‘Cause I Still Got A Lotta Fight Left In Me | My Hospital Stay | My Mental Illness(es)


So, in case you were wondering where I’ve been for the past ten days and where I am right now, I’m currently in the process of treating my mental illnesses. Like any writer should (as stated above), I’m altering names of where I stayed and respecting other patients’ privacy and identities while telling my story at what I’ll call “Radley” (like in PLL, but much more comforting).

To start the story, I might as well mention that I was scared sh*tless. Naturally, I cried after my mom left. It was like the first day kindergarten, but this time, I was going to be a resident at “Radley” Hospital, unable to see my family until 12:00 noon or 5:00 p.m. — both for 1.5 hour intervals, and I’d be staying overnight.

*DISCLAIMER: I checked in to get a diagnosis for an illness that was interfering with my everyday life and the overall quality of my life.*

All I had in my room to entertain myself were various poetry books, my trusty journal, and my poetry notebook (not that I’m complaining, lol). They had group activities for us to participate in, like games, how to stay healthy, crafts, and my two favorites: open discussion and meditation. I’ve taken to meditating every night since I’ve been there and since I’ve been at home.

There’s one piece of advice I’d give to my younger self, and that would be to say, “you’re not damaged, you’re on a journey.” My mom said this to me as I expressed my anxieties about my diagnoses, returning to social media after being off-the-grid for 5-10 days, and finding out who my next roommate was going to be. After stress-crying, I was shortly introduced to my new (Spanish-speaking) roommate. So I had one weight to take off my shoulders. Just like all of us, she just wanted to go home.

There are many things I learned while staying at “Radley;” one of them is that talking about what was going on with me does NOT make me sound crazy person. But after going to an open discussion, I’ve learned a few more things: 1) I chose to be there, to seek help, and to get better and 2) it’s perfectly okay to say “I’m anxious,” “I’m depressed,” etc. I have a new one to add:

“I have PTSD.” There. I said it.

Go ahead, judge. I know most people will. But in the end, I’m not going to let my mental illnesses define who I am. Correction: they don’t define who I am.

All in all, there’s no shame in getting the help you need. Before I came to Radley, I didn’t like the idea of being a “mental patient.” But really, I’m getting the help I need to move forward in life — the type of treatment I can’t get at home or at school. I felt resentment towards myself for feeling what I feel, and for putting my life on hold in order to be there.

My roommate kept telling me, “you’re so beautiful and you’re so young, you don’t need to be here.” What I have to say to that is that you don’t know what a person is going through. You don’t know a person’s story until you hear it firsthand. One thing I challenge you all to do something: (and I know, this is beyond cliché) but I challenge you all to not judge a book by it’s cover. Another thing, don’t assume people have some sort of disorder based on the way they act or the things they do.

And, in terms of treatment, you can’t just pray your illness away. Treatment and recovery are like a fine wine, they take time. In order to make something happen, you have to be the one to make it happen. I put myself, or my demons, rather, in Radley, and I need to dig myself out of this hole that I’m in — that I’ve been in, I should say. That’s why I keep saying, “there’s gotta be more to life,” because I’ve been stuck in a rut and I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of it. For the longest time I’ve been ashamed of my depression because it prevented me from performing even the simplest tasks, like going to school, getting out of bed, concentrating, and just going out in general. What’s worse is that whenever something bad happens to me, I take it to my heart and let it stab me to let myself bleed. I once came to the conclusion that there’s no shame in being vulnerable. So again, I have no shame in my depression, but I’m so ashamed of how I would let the smallest thing cut me so deep. Even worse, I’m ashamed of letting unimportant things and/or people get to me. It’s like something I learned in my current outpatient program, “If you don’t know them personally, don’t take it personally.”

Looking at what I wrote in my journal, I’ve decided not to go into depth about what my mental illnesses have done to me while I was in the hospital or what affect they have in my daily life. But I will share a poem by my literary husband, Ralph Waldo Emerson:

What Is Success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children; 

To earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better,

whether by a healthy child, a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed 

easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

Kyoko Escamilla once said, “your twenties are your selfish years.” One of my fellow inpatients told me that I have to be “selfish” sometimes. Not in the sense that you only care about yourself, but doing the things that will benefit you and your well-being. Right now, what’s important to myself and my well-being is that I treat these new diagnoses and to continue living a normal life. But, let’s be real, is anyone really “normal?” The term is overused and might as well be nonexistent. It’s just one of those words you wish you could ban.

I’m just going to add a conversation I had with my dad:

DAD: “What happened to me seven years ago?”

ME: “You were diagnosed with cancer at a late stage.”

DAD: “And the people at Tufts told me there was nothing they could do, because it was so late. And what happened to me?

ME: You’re still here.

DAD: That’s right. I beat it. Never give up.

I preached this to my group discussion one night, and I can honestly say that I’m seeing the world in a whole new light — a way I’ve never seen the world before. It’s as though I became a completely different person with an actually positive attitude instead of seeing things through “depression lenses.” For a long time, I thought to myself, “If I am giving, I’m giving up.” But not anymore. That group’s discussion was called “getting out of your own way.” I’m not going to get in the way of myself, anymore, nor am I going to let my anxiety, depression, and/or my PTSD get in the way of me living my life. Again, you have to be selfish at times and put yourself, especially your health, first. Just like my dad took all the necessary steps to beat cancer, I’m taking the necessary steps to create a new life for myself, like exercising more, eating healthier, reading more, and being on social media less. In fact, I’m giving up social media for 30+ days and giving myself a good cleanse.

So yeah. There’s my story about being an inpatient at a mental hospital. Now I’m just going to leave this here: My Fight Song “because I still got a lot of fight left in me.”☺☺☺

Keep fighting.

xoxoxo April ♥

There’s Gotta Be More To Life: A Prelude

Do you ever get tired of same old routines? Do you ever find yourself wondering, “what’s more to this life that I’m living?” Lately, that’s all I’ve been thinking about.

There’s a lot going on in my life right now, this is just a prelude to big news yet to come. I’ve been tired, exhausted even. This exhaustion is a product of intense sadness. I’m tired of everything at this point, so instead of sleeping 9+ hours a day, I’m doing something about it.

In the words of one hit wonder, Stacie Orrico, “I’m chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me.” I’m always chasing that something I think is going to make me happy. It’s like I learned in my philosophy class, some things are only temporary. It’s like buying Adidas shoes and a Starbucks coffee. Well honey, money can’t buy you happiness.

I spent quite some time talking to one of my good friends about finding faith. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I want faith, I have to go and find it for myself. The same thing is true for that one (or a few) missing thing(s) in my life. I think that certain something is a dream of mine. Lately, I’ve just been praying to God to get me to New York, or some city! Watching The Carrie Diaries, definitely put some things in perspective for me in terms of going after what I want. At this point, all I want to do is write and read poetry.

Getting things off your chest is one way to know what you want. I’ll say this again, I’m tired. All the time. I’m tired of settling for something just because it’s all what’s available to me. I want to have more control over my life. I want to have control over the classes I take, my future, and the degree(s) that I covet — just to name a few.

Well, I’m sorry if this is shorter than what you had expected. There’s just so much going on in my life right now that I can’t disclose it all at once. Again, this is just a prelude to what I’m going to say after I finally have control and a new outlook on life.

Ta-ta for now!


The Two Tips To Achieve Self Love

Unfuckwithable: (adj.) when you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself, and nothing anyone says or does bothers you, and no negativity or drama can touch you.

Sophrosyne: (n.) a healthy state of mind, characterized by self-control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one’s true self, and resulting in true happiness.

I was originally going to post something about what I want in a guy, but then I realized, why focus on boys when you should be focusing on yourself? How can you love if you don’t love yourself?

This I realized when I looked at my RA’s bulletin board. The theme of her bulletin board was “Steps Towards Loving Yourself.” Two of the tips that stuck out to me were 1) Get out of your comfort zone, and 2) Do what makes you happy.

Let’s flashback to the first two weeks of the Spring semester, which were not too long ago. I would constantly confine myself to my room and just wanted to be isolated — only leading me to crying my eyes out. My mom took me out to dinner one Monday night, and she explained to me that her best friend from college was is in the same sort of “rut.” Her best friend was a piano major, so she decided to focus on her piano studies. Soon enough, she found herself performing in theater productions. How did she get that far? She set goals for each day. Even if something wasn’t happening the next day, she would make something happen.

An example of this (for me): the following day, I was invited to a poetry workshop hosted by renowned poet Tiana Clark (who told me I have a talent for writing and writing poetry). So that was something to focus on. The day after, I promised myself I would work on an article for my school’s newspaper, The Crier. 

Yes, I started writing poetry. I performed at three open-mics, thus far and was invited to another one next week. I even started uploading my performances to YouTube. I’m no stranger to showcasing my work, as I was an artist back in the day. Performing in front of my peers, Goffstown Public Library, and the East Greenwich Hotel, Bar, and Lounge was already one (or several) steps to branching out of my comfort zone. There was another thing I had in mind…

Believe it or not, I actually dropped reading at masses because I not only wanted to focus my attention on my English and Spanish studies, but I wanted to turn my attention to my women’s group, our partnering Social Justice Club, and my writing/journalistic career.

One thing I can tell my elementary school self: April, you don’t have to write pretend news articles when you’re older, and you’ll have your chance to be on an actual television set. I always knew I would go into entertainment one way or another. So, in addition to writing articles for The Crier and Her Culture, I decided to step up and take my passions for social justice and writing to the next level and joined the SAC Broadcasting team. On Tuesday I filmed my very first episode of my very own recurring series “All People Matter @ SAC” or “Hawk Thoughts.”

There isn’t really much left to say except to follow these steps towards loving yourself. Create your own opportunity every day. Step out of your comfort zone and pursue your interests. Because of this, I would not be as happy as I am right now, even if that means being stuck in your room writing this on a snow day. But hey, just doing what I love to do and loving myself in the process ☺



Toto, We’re Not In Manchester, Anymore | WBA Manchester

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”

What an eye-opening, life-changing week! Every day after coming back from Hillside Middle School to teach English and Mathematics to refugees, I would plop down on my sleeping bag, exhausted. To me, feeling exhausted is a way of feeling fulfilled. I felt that way every day coming home from Tufts Medical Center. I even felt that way today after coming back from my Intro. to Spanish-American Literature class — the most advanced Spanish course of this semester. Yes, I’m an overachiever, but that’s not the point.

No lie, I had a flare up of panic attacks prior to this Winter Break Alternative Service & Solidarity trip. But, my mom kept reminding me that I’ll be doing something I love: service. And I knew my Spanish double major would come in handy on this trip. I couldn’t stop fidgeting and shaking during the send-off mass, and even stumbled upon my words while reading (every lector’s nightmare). It wasn’t until we actually started working when I felt more at ease.

That Monday, I and another girl on my trip drove to Hillside Middle School for the first time. The coordinator had no idea we were coming, so they let us help out with “lunch buddies.” We stayed with the girls while the boys went off with the principal. The girls were working on a “positivity project” with a woman from Girls Inc. It was a collage of words from women’s magazine that promote positivity. It seems as though the media only promotes being perfect, flawlessness, and almost fakeness. Yeah, you’re trying to advertise your products and clothing. But what real girl is going to buy them to make themselves feel beautiful when these products can only make you feel “plastic.” I remember being in middle school thinking I had to have all these different couture items to make me feel like a celebrity. I was sad that I couldn’t see the girls’ finished projects.

My English major and knowledge in the sciences came in handy, as well. That Monday afternoon, a handful of us went to Elmwood Gardens to help with homework. After helping girls with English and science homework, I was asked by one of the coordinators to lead group discussions — something you’d think I’d be used to. The girls and I talked about random stuff that happened in school, well at least they did. These girls definitely reminded me of myself when I was middle school — inside jokes and talking about boys.

During one of our reflections, we talked about the inevitable: the future. I hate talking about the future with all my heart because I’m more of a “live in the moment” kind of gal. I couldn’t help but feel not so much “on the trip,” unless I was at Hillside or Elmwood, because I felt like I have to tend to you loyal followers and be in constant communication on social media. Let me just tell you this: you’re not going to enjoy the gift of the present if all you’re thinking about is what you don’t know what you want! You simply don’t enjoy life like that. So, it is better to cherish your present in order to not take it for granted. What you want in the future may or may not even work out! I just wish people could stop saying stuff like “I think I’m going to go to California (or wherever) after graduation!” as if they’re so certain what they’re going to do. Just have a realistic plan! I know, I’m only a sophomore in college and I’m going off on this tangent. But this is where I say to myself: “April, stop being this critical because you’re still torn between being a lawyer and a journalist.” 

But, as I watched a Ted Talk given by a young woman from Bhutan, she mentioned that people like her look to have a future based on happiness and to be willing to drop to the lowest social status to obtain this future and to be happy. That was me in my freshman year of high school when I went from public school to private Catholic school. There’s so much sacrifice to live this ideal life. Sacrifice has always been a theme in my life, not just mine, but my family’s. I’m not the only one, I’ve come to realize. The day before, we went to the airport to pick up a family from Bhutan. It was like watching The Good Lie — a movie we watched about Sudanese refugees coming to America. I couldn’t tell if I was going to cry with happiness (for them), if my heart was so full for them, or both. I just wanted to give the grandmother the shoes off my feet so hers wouldn’t freeze in the sandals she was wearing.

I can honestly say I have a somewhat understanding of what my dad and his family went through when they moved from Italy to the United States. There was this one line from The Good Lie: “You come to America and this is how you choose to live your life?” Believe it or not, my dad actually gives semi-good life advice. Because of him, and what my family has been through, and my mom even told me this as she drove me back to school: live life to the fullest and it’s what YOU make of your experience(s). I will never take where I live for granted. I only ever moved to one state, and I used to be so bitter about it. These refugees we were working with were moving to completely different countries on completely different continents with completely different cultures and norms — COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

There’s another thing that comes with working with refugees: patience. I now know what it’s like to be a teacher and having to control your rowdy eighth graders to get them to do their work. As I help these refugee kids out with math, I’m reminded of when I was an eighth grader with mono and could not grasp the concept of exponents. Well, look at me now, I’m teaching math I couldn’t do when I was in eighth grade! Take that! My favorite subject to help them out with was English (no, duh! I’m a writer!). So my writing assistant skills were put to the test, as well. I felt like my high school Spanish teacher by saying things like “¿Listas/os?” and “¿Necesitas ayuda?” I learned a lot from my mother about teaching, that’s for sure. It was exhausting, but rewarding. My thoughts were on food and sleep after each day as I dozed off on the carpeted floor, writing this all down. Headaches and being “hangry” was another thing.

There was one reflection that I won’t forget. So, let me ask you a question: have you ever wondered where your hands have been? What they’ve touched? Who they’ve touched? The other hands they’ve shaken? How many times they’ve bled or have been callused? Hands might as well be their own living organism. Hands aren’t something we can necessarily control, unless your brain tells them to do something. Like humans, they do things they regret. I can’t help but refer this to both Pontius Pilate and Macbeth. And like humans, they, literally and figuratively, touch the lives of others.

The last day of WBA was ever so bittersweet. I had to say goodbye to those whom I served. We took a brief trip to Mount Uncanoonuc. As I looked over city of Manchester, I came to two conclusions:

1.) We’ve touched (with our hands) the hearts of people from Manchester and refugees from countries around the world.

2.) Toto, we’re not in Manchester, anymore. We’re the whole world in one city.

Enjoy these pictures!




This Is The Part Of Me | An Honest Post To End The Year

Talk about ending your 2016 with a bang!  After what could have been a heinous year, I’ve come out the other end stronger and more in comfortable with who I really am. That, my friend, is what I call strength. Surprising — since I never thought I possessed strength — until now. This year took a massive toll on my physical and mental health. But my identity is doing much better, thank you very much!

Let’s flashback to when I was a kid and “set the scene.” When I was a young girl, I was shy, and that’s still kind of true now. But, there was no doubt that I was creative — very creative. So, when I finally learned how to use Microsoft Word, I took advantage of it and started writing my own stories. My elementary school teachers even noticed my affinity for writing. I started dozens of stories, and ultimately only finished four (three of them written in the 4th grade):  a Halloween story, a Canadian immigrant story, and a fictional piece titled “Charlotte.” The fourth story was a memoir about finding my way through the second semester of my freshman year and entering my sophomore year in college.

Over the past year I began letting that little girl shine through, but I also let her down in some ways. I started writing again after a long hiatus, during which I had stopped believing in my work. But, once in college, it wasn’t long before I became Editor-in-Chief of the Saint Anselm chapter of the Odyssey Online, and started working and writing for the Communications and Marketing Office.

Life wasn’t all peaches and cream (I don’t even like peaches) just because I returned to writing. I was in two completely wrong majors this past year. I moved from my hometown of 20 years in Massachusetts, to Rhode Island. On top of all that, my depression resurfaced and I began practicing the abominable art of self-doubt, and started feeling “lesser-than.”

This past semester was rougher than the last, especially in October – a month that has never been kind to me. Following a bad break-up, I took two weeks off from school to focus on myself. After that, I not only bounced back from what I went through, but realized I’d been living a lackluster life and it was time to fix it. My creative, ambitious self came back. So, I started my blog, looked into studying abroad, applied to participate in Road For Hope, went on a Rural Immersions trip, and started the Women’s Collective on campus.

In spite of this, lingering self-doubt still triggered thoughts of transferring to another school — a lot. But I started to realize I’ve begun to carve out my niche and establish a name for myself at Saint Anselm. I feel like I’m making my mark. If I transfer I won’t get hugs from my best friend/roommate, I’ll miss heart-to-hearts with my adviser, and I’ll lose the opportunity to learn from the best English professors on any college campus.

At my low point, I had so much that I wanted to do but was too afraid to pursue, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t do myself or my goals justice. My depression and my anxiety tried to break me. But, by the end of 2016, I’d made the Dean’s List — twice!

So, here I am at the close of 2016. I’m listening to my younger self and silencing the negative voices in my head.

Light has always been a motif in my life, no matter what the situation. In 2016 I found this quote in my favorite YouTuber’s Snapchat story, and adopted it for myself:  “I stopped looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and lit that bitch up myself.”

Of course, I still have my moments. Don’t we all? But I can finally say I’m pretty much on Cloud 9 and things are getting better every day.

What can you expect from me in 2017? More blog posts, of course, as well as me rocking it out as an English major, and seeing my work in PRINT. I’ve discovered how much I love being published. One thing’s for sure, in the words of Katy Perry:  “This [writing] is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me.”

There’s a lot of things you can’t take away from me. My mom had me create a list of qualities that define me (i.e. what I love about myself); and, no, this does not make me self-absorbed. I’ve just gotten started, but I highly recommend it to everyone — and it’s no time to be modest. Here’s what I’ve listed so far, and I’ll bet you share some of the same qualities — so, give yourself credit:

1.) Courageous

2.) Resilient

3.) Love of learning

4.) Passionate about service

5.) Ambitious

6.) Someone who likes to bring out the best in others

What are yours? What’s your truth? What’s your passion? Will you live it in 2017? I challenge you to make your own list of what people can’t take away from YOU.