Since moving to Los Angeles last November, maintaining my mental health has been a daily workout. With Runyon Canyon three blocks away from my apartment, a gym membership, a ClassPass subscription and Vitamin D from the California sun in abundance, physically exercising has been easier than ensuring my psychological and emotional well-being is in check.
Getting to this state of prioritizing my mental stability was no quick trip. I’ve been practicing what I call “positivity training” since I was in junior high. When my father fell ill with a stroke in the ‘90s and later passed away from a variety of health complications in 2003, I noticed a shift in my thought process after his death. There’s nothing like loss, especially at a young age, that will force you to mature quickly. Despite the prolonged sadness I felt combined with the pressures of living with a strict mother, I turned to words for my sanity.
From 6th grade to college, I cycled through different music genres, picking up mantras from artists across pop, alternative rock to my longtime lifelines—hip-hop and R&B. I wrote poetry, songs and even love letters to myself and other recipients, even if they didn’t reciprocate. But the real joygasms came from jotting down any nugget of positivity I could find daily, whether it was a quote from my childhood idol (fun fact: WWF wrestler, Lita, set the foundation for my self-esteem), a movie or TV show line, a string of copy from the books I read or a poignant lyric. I was always on the hunt for happiness, which came from understanding that my struggles weren’t isolated and that no situation is permanent.
If strengthening my positivity was an Olympic sport, though, I’d probably be a gold medalist by now. Looking back on this self-imposed exercise of documenting various gems, it felt like I was teaching myself to only see bliss in a world filled with pain. While my mediums changed from loose-leaf paper and Xangas to cell phone Notes, tweets, Instagram captions and Facebook posts, it’s a habit that I picked up and never put down. Yet, I admittedly still struggle expressing my doubts, shortcomings and anxieties in a way that doesn’t feel shameful.
Just before my move to California, I said goodbye to a four-year relationship. I was impulsive, reckless with my money and got faded on the regular just to delay the process of grief. The most difficult period was when I fell victim to an apartment scam. I wanted to start fresh by moving into my own place and found what appeared to be a fully furnished studio with manageable rent in Hoboken, New Jersey online. The agent asked for two down payments up front and promised a key would be mine within days. I never even went to take a tour of the place, but being in emotional shambles and not dealing with my pain made me blind to the red flags that were clearly there from jump. I wanted living by myself to be the solution to my inner problems so bad that I abandoned common sense and ended up losing $2,000 to some scammer in the UK.
To this day, bringing this incident up still makes my blood pressure rise. Only my mom, uncle and less than a handful of other people knew at the time until now. After what felt like a massive F-up, the self-interrogation became relentless. I would grill myself: Why were you so gullible? How stupid are you? Why did you jeopardize a blessing with your selfishness? I strived so hard to achieve this perpetual, unrealistic goal of what I thought was perfection only to self-destruct in my attempt to achieve it. But I still showed up to work, my social media, happy hours and fitness classes with a smile on my face because the last thing I wanted was a pity party. The only option was to bounce back and trust that my horrible experience was a setup for what would eventually be my glow-up.
A major key in my “positivity training” has also been manifesting. While I haven’t attracted everything I’ve thought I wanted, I envision myself flourishing—in my career and in my personal life—and find comfort in knowing that what is meant for me will come to me. The same mentality applied to a job I secured at Netflix that hit my inbox thanks to an A1 friend. It was an opportunity that meant uprooting my life across the country on the company’s dime, penetrating an industry I never tackled and earning a salary that would help me pay off school loans, help family and live comfortably. It was then that I turned the emotional residue from that apartment scam L into motivation. I had to remember that I’d been in this situation many times before. All the massive obstacles I was dealt in the past only resulted in me coming out swinging even harder.
For the past seven years, being my own hype woman has made me resilient. When you make it a habit to apply positive thinking to less than ideal circumstances, it becomes muscle memory. Keeping that same energy in your inner circle helps, too. Surround yourself with people whose vibrations align with or lift yours higher, and who also hold you accountable. We are so quick to call ourselves out using language that minimizes our worth that having a network to check you helps you stay the course.
Additionally, allow yourself to process the funk, even if it means canceling social plans, turning off all electronic devices and sobbing into your pillow. But don’t let pain or anxiety paralyze you and back you into a corner. If it’s one thing I’ve learned through this wildly emotional journey, you can’t become a source of light battling demons in the dark.