“You are not Chamorro”

“You are not Chamorro,” my grandpa Lorenzo Batangan says to me across the kitchen table.

I wipe beads of sweat away from my face as I nod, humoring him.

There’s no air con at his house in Liguan Terrace, where he’s lived for over 40 years.

“What do you tell people you are when you’re in Calipornya? Do you say you’re Chamorro,” he asks, laughing.

“I tell them I’m Filipina,” I yell at him, so his 90-year-old ears can hear me, past the damage of firing machine guns in World War II.

“That’s right,” he says with a smile.

He picks up the newspaper and shows me a story I wrote, proudly pointing out my byline “Chloe B. Babauta.” It was important to him that I include Batangan, my middle name and his surname.

His words roll around in my head on my drive back home to Santa Rita. I make a point of visiting him every few weeks (maybe once a month now — I hate myself for that). I think about him sitting alone in that house, now that his cat has died.

You are not Chamorro. You are not Chamorro.

It hurts to hear this, even though I know that wasn’t his intention.

I struggle with this every time someone laughs at me for not being able to pronounce a word in Chamorro. Every time someone asks me where I’m really from (I sound too haole). Every time I hang out with people who are *really* Chamorro and I feel out of place.

“I’m home,” I call out to my grandma. I set my keys down on an ornate wooden table.

Shannon Murphy smiles at me from the couch, where she’s watching Stephen Colbert and playing Freecell on her new MacBook Air.

Taking control over my eating disorder

Getting dressed has become such an ordeal lately.

I moved back to Guam with just one suitcase with all my belongings (clothes, shoes, and books included), but I’ve bought a few tops and bottoms over the past year.

Since last September, I’ve gained at least 10 pounds. I probably lost 10 pounds of muscle and gained 20 pounds of fat total, because I stopped working out and I used to be on a fairly strict workout regimen in 2016.

Now the clothes I brought over from California don’t even fit me anymore, and I’ve had to give away a few pairs of my favorite jeans because they can’t possibly button around my waist.

I feel bad every time I need to get dressed because almost nothing fits me right anymore. I end up changing clothes ten times before going anywhere, scrutinizing myself in the mirror. I often just give up and wear the same outfits repeatedly, usually the ones that hide my stomach most.

By no means am I the slightest bit overweight — I’m average for my height now, for the first time in my life.

But the problem I came to terms with four years ago has crept back into my life, this time stronger than I’ve felt it in years.

It’s no big secret that I had (and still have) body dysmorphic disorder, and am recovering from anorexia nervosa. I wrote a blog post about learning to love my body in 2013 after I realized I had a problem and I was underweight. I shared about my body dysmorphia on Instagram last year, while I was coming to terms with my changing body after college.

In 2013, I realized I had body dysmorphic disorder and had been starving myself for a year or so to stay thin. I was so scared to weigh over 100 pounds, so I checked the scale obsessively to make sure I was at 99 at the most. I weighed about 97 pounds and I’m about 5’4-5’5 in height.

I took pleasure in buying XXS clothes. I was so proud of myself when I bought a 00 pair of jean shorts at American Eagle (I’d be surprised if I could fit one thigh in it today). Some days, I’d work out at the gym and my only meal that day would be a couple of Hot Cheetos and Sour Patch Kids.

It’s weird because I’m never really aware of it or in control of it. It’s kind of like the voice in your head that tells you to do any task, like when to brush your teeth or when it’s time to go to bed.

It tells me not to eat because it knows I’m going to get “fat.”

When I look down at my stomach, it tells me I’m disgusting.

When I wash my body in the shower, it tells me my mid section is too big and soft.

When I look at myself in clothes that don’t fit right, it tells me to lose weight.

When I look in the mirror, it tells me I’m ugly.

And I listen. Every time.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at telling myself it’s wrong. I don’t know why it’s there or how it came to be.

But it gets worse when I’m going through periods of high emotional stress — like difficult breakups in the past. Now I think it’s back because of work stress, anxiety, and other personal issues.

I let myself go a bit over the past year, eating whatever junk food I want, eating socially (because it’s Guam, and that’s what you do), and snacking like crazy at night.

So now the voice has gotten meaner than ever.

I weighed myself at 119 last month. I couldn’t believe it.

I told myself it was fine. I mean I’m average now. Is that really so bad? I’m still skinnier than a lot of people my age, so it isn’t a big deal. And I’m getting older so my metabolism is slowing down. It’s normal.

Still, I found myself measuring my waist every day in the morning (since you’re supposed to be your thinnest when you wake up).

Almost 29 inches. You fucking fat bitch.

I pinch my rolls and feel devastated.

The following weeks:

Still too fat.

27 and three quarters of an inch. Better. But still too fat.

I’ll be happy when I’m at 26 again, I tell myself every morning.

I nod with affirmation at the mirror thinking, yes, then I’ll be happy.

But another voice in my head (damn I sound crazy with all these voices) says softly, but when you were a 25 waist, were you happy?

I pause to listen.

No, I wasn’t happy back then. I was hungry.

Not just for food, but for satisfaction with myself.

After staring at myself tonight in old clothes that are too tight, examining my belly profile from different angles, I finally told myself, fuck it.

Even if I did it the healthy way by eating right, cutting out snacking before bed (which I should still probably do because it’s a bad habit in general), and exercising, I would still be measuring myself. Even if I hit 26, hell 25, would I really be happy?

I know if I monitor myself thinking that being skinnier will make me happy, instead of dealing with the anxiety, stress, and insecurities I have internally, I will never be happy.

I need to throw out whatever unrealistic expectations I have for my body.

I’m 24 years old. I’m not 19 anymore.

I have belly rolls, stretch marks, and cellulite.  I feel my fat shake on my body when I walk. I feel my thighs rub together.

But is that all really so bad? And who said it was bad to begin with?

For the first time in my life, I’m finally able to wear my bras without a huge gaping hole at the top. I’m finally fuller. I’m not stick-thin and my teenage body wouldn’t be attainable even if I threw up every day and starved myself.

I finally look full and healthy.

I look the way Woman Chloe should be, and I need to stop hanging onto Teenage Chloe.

I need to let go because the only person standing in the way of me feeling beautiful and happy is me — and that tiny mean voice inside that tells me I’m not enough.

What I learned from my three-year long distance relationship

After three whole years spent living in different apartments, cities, then landmasses, I’m finally nearing the end of the long distance chapter of my relationship.

Finally.

My partner Nate and I met in college in December 2013 (we say “partner” because we’re ~mature adults~ and equals). After I sat next to him in class and we talked briefly, I stalked him on Facebook, he asked me out a bunch of times and showed up to my social events until my friends checked him out and I got jealous and realized I liked him, and the rest is history!

We fell in love quickly, and even during the first month of our relationship, I knew he was the person I wanted to marry someday.

The only problem was that he’s a few years older than me and was graduating in a matter of months. We dreaded talking about the future and letting the reality of our inevitable long distance or breakup set in.

The week before he graduated, we finally sat down and had the talk: what was going to happen when he moved back to Orange County and started law school, while I was continuing college in Santa Barbara?

Among the many qualities Nate and I share that make us a great couple is our ability to openly talk to each other and solve our problems rationally — and most importantly, as a team. We’re also both relatively narcissistic (if you couldn’t already tell by reading the previous sentence).

We sat down and talked through every one of our worst fears about the outcomes of both a LDR (long distance relationship) and breaking up. We discussed every possible aspect of LDR we could think of and how we’d each like to handle it.

I visited him every other weekend during my senior year — I came to him because he needed to focus on studying during his first year of law school. Also, I loved coming over because his parents would feed me and I was broke as hell (and his mom’s homemade pho ga is the best ever).

After I graduated, I moved back in with my parents in Davis, California and we flew to each other every three weeks between NorCal and SoCal for over a year.

But during that last year, I battled with insecurities, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction with myself while I worked in retail and lost a lot of my confidence.

I relied heavily on Nate to be there for me when I needed encouragement, validation, and friendship. I got frustrated with him often because I didn’t have anything else in my life going on and focused mostly on him and our relationship.

I was desperate for something in my life to change and get me out of the rut I’d been in for over a year.

I ended up choosing to take a job in journalism back on Guam, where I was born and raised. I knew it could mean the end of our relationship eventually as I accepted a yearlong contract across the world from him, but I needed to do it for my own happiness and professional success.

We ended up breaking up only two months after I left California. We were both so heartbroken because we still loved each other deeply, but I wanted to stay on Guam with my new life and he was too scared to move and was still in the middle of his last year of law school. (Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending — we got back together!)

Nate and I are excellent at many things, but treating each other like normal exes isn’t one of them. We ended up still texting every day, we said “I love you” for months, and continued to be best friends who supported each other.

I can’t say I ever imagined my life (and our relationship) to unfold this way when I first sat down next to this random (well-dressed) dude with glasses and poofy hair in class, but no matter what happens in the future, I’ve changed and matured so much in the past three years we’ve been together.

These are a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned during three years of long distance (from a three-hour drive, to a one-hour plane ride, to an ocean apart):

Being alone is actually really great (and healthy).

When Nate and I first started dating, we spent allllll our time together. We took another class together, we ate lunch together between classes, we walked home together and watched TV shows in my bed for hours until he went to bed late, then we met up again in the morning in class and repeated the whole thing every day.

I got so used to spending every waking moment with him (and bailing on plans with other friends and extracurricular commitments just to be with him) that it physically hurt to be apart when he moved.

Eventually I just learned to distract myself and count down the days until we could visit each other, but it wasn’t until I moved far away from him and my family that I actually learned how to live my life fully for myself.

I cultivated a group of close friends who I hung out with every weekend (and during the week too), I grew closer to my coworkers and went out with them after hours, I made time to reconnect with my extended family, I went to the beach and tried new things on my time off. I grew so much getting thrown into new environments every day for work, too.

I actually had a full life for the first time since we started dating (maybe even for the first time in my life), and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that I chose this life for myself instead of putting romance first, for the first time ever (I’ve been boy-crazy since elementary school, unfortunately).

Living very far apart forced me to grow like crazy. Even though I love Nate so much, I’m grateful I got the chance to go somewhere on my own and figure my life out for myself. We had a rough half year when we broke up, but I still wouldn’t change it if I could because it made me into the independent, self-sufficient, and happy person I am today.

It also worked out best for our relationship too, because I needed this growth to be a better partner to Nate, instead of getting mad at him for every little thing because I was unsatisfied with my own life. Going through this rough patch also strengthened our relationship so much, and now we’re even more connected and smitten than we were during the honeymoon phase. #smitten4ages

It’s easy to take each other for granted, but make sure you don’t.

I can’t stress how important it is to remember how much the other person is right for you and is there for you, even when you’re not physically together.

After he goes to bed and can’t text me for the rest of the day, I think about him a lot. We’re apart all day, but when I can’t even talk to him, I take some time to sit and actively think about him, our future, fun times in the past, or why I love him so much. (This is all so sappy, I usually don’t write this many nice things about him all at once)

Having a period every day when I can’t talk to him makes me even more grateful for his presence when we get to text regularly during the time we’re both awake.

Don’t sweat the small stuff — but the small stuff also matters so much.

This sounds confusing, but these are two different definitions of “small stuff.”

I used to nitpick every little thing Nate would say to me and get irritated if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. If I texted him something fishing for a compliment and he didn’t praise me the way I wanted, I’d get upset and sometimes ignored him or gave him a bad attitude.

Since we got back together, I try not to to read too much into the wording of his messages (plus I just stay too busy with work and my social life to over-analyze as much as I did when I had no job/friends). Texting is a difficult and ambiguous form of communication, and getting mad about it just creates more tension — and it’s already hard enough not seeing each other in person.

But it’s also hard not to read closely into texts when texts are sometimes all we have to connect in a LDR.

Even though I’m busy with work most of the time, and I end up texting a bit mindlessly sometimes, I try to make time to be thoughtful about my messages to Nate. If I’m busy in the moment, I hold onto a thought and bring it up to him later or if it’s a serious topic I make time for him.

It’s easy to let things fall through the cracks, but it’s important to make time for your partner and let them know they’re worth it.

You need to treat it like a real relationship even when you’re not physically together.

Even though we can’t actually sit down to dinner or show physical affection, we try our best to show each other we’re still each other’s priorities.

When I first moved to Guam, sometimes we’d have to cancel or delay Skype dates last minute, because other things got in the way of our face-to-face time. If he didn’t make time for me, I felt hurt because I didn’t feel like I was important enough to him. And if I didn’t make time for him, I felt like our connection was becoming less tangible and we were fading out of each other’s lives.

Now we make time to Skype every Friday or Saturday (my time), which is a lot easier now that Nate is done with school. It takes some rearranging of our schedules, and sometimes I have to turn down plans with friends or family in person. It’s easy to cancel a Skype date since we’re not physically together, but the time commitment and effort made to be available for the other person are still real.

People aren’t static.

When Nate and I first got together, I thought he was this cool English major who loved writing and reading fiction (basically I thought he was just like me). For his birthday, I even bought him a book with hundreds of writing prompts because I thought it’d be fun for him.

Months into the relationship, I learned he didn’t like writing for fun at all (besides getting some enjoyment using flowery language for his school assignments). He’s a nice person so he thanked me for the gift, but it’s still sitting on his bookshelf, untouched. Instead, his interests were mainly basketball and poker. He also didn’t reveal he was a huge anime geek until half a year into our relationship — maybe that was my bad for talking about how weird anime lovers were, before I knew his true nature.

About half a year to a year in, I realized he wasn’t the person I thought I was falling in love with at all.

But that was okay, because I loved the person I was getting to know even more than the fantasy I made him out to be in my head.

During the course of our relationship, we’ve both changed a lot from who we were when we met. I’m not the same 20-year-old campus activist and he’s not the lazy party animal he used to be (jk, the lazy part is still somewhat true). But we’ve changed so much, together.

Three years in, we’re starting our careers, he’s done with law school, I’m more self-assured, he’s more liberal than he used to be, I’m less religious than I used to be. He wrote a chapter for my LDR advice book and had fun with it. And I even started watching anime with him! Now that’s true love.

We’ve both gotten to know each other so well that we can handle any problem together and know what to say to make the other feel better.

I used to be sad that the honeymoon phase was over, but sharing lifelong mutual growth and support is so much more fulfilling.

If you’ve found someone you can grow steadily with over time and encourage each other, even with the difficulties of distance keeping you apart, you’re incredibly lucky. I know I am.

Being a grownup

Despite going to one of the most highly-ranked party schools on virtually every list online, I was never much of a party animal in college.

My ‘going out’ phase hit me later, after I spent a year with no friends, living with my family after I graduated. Since I moved to Guam, I’ve spent almost every weekend out with my childhood friends.

I’ve also been eating way more than I used to in California — I can’t help it if all the food here is delicious and everyone offers food all the time!

Nine months into my new life back on Guam, my age is finally starting to hit me.

I’ve gained at least 6 lbs (and 3 or more inches on my waist), I look tired most of the time, I haven’t blogged at all, I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should, and I eat terribly (and eat way more than my fill).

I’m realizing I’m not 18 (or 22) anymore. I can’t eat cake for breakfast, candy and Hot Cheetos for lunch, and ramen for dinner like I used to in college.

I need to put in a lot more work to take care of my body, my health, my teeth, my skin, and my mental health. This is even more difficult working a high-stress full-time job (usually with a lot of overtime).

After battling a cold, a bout of terrible indigestion, and an even worse fit of vomiting and a hangover on my trip to Thailand this month, I’ve decided now is the time to finally get my life on track.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a vegetarian, cook my own meals, do yoga or another form of exercise regularly, and write for myself — I just kept thinking Future Chloe would figure this all out (when she’s in her mid-20s and has her life put together).

So here I am at 24, finally ready to embrace the transition from reckless invincible youth to Responsible Adult™. And it feels really good.

These are a few changes I’ve made over past weeks. I’m trying to stick with them while staying flexible and treating myself with compassion when I mess up:

Staying in

I was notorious for canceling plans and staying home in college. I’d pick a night alone with Netflix over any party.

But when I got to Guam I wanted to take full advantage of my time here, so I made a point of pushing myself to go to everything anyone invited me to (also so as not to be rude to people who were nice enough to ask me to hang out) and I got used to it.

I still have a difficult time saying no now (which is largely driven by my overwhelming FOMO) but after a few times of turning down plans, I got more used to it.

Letting people down sucks, but most of the time they probably don’t care enough about whether you’re actually there or not.

Taking some time for rest and mental health is so important — even if it doesn’t make for a fun Snapchat story.

Although the Myers-Briggs test says I’m an extrovert, I still have introverted tendencies and need time to recharge alone in my room. Also I hate people when I’m around them too much, so spending a few nights in solitude is best for me and everyone around me.

Making time for my passion

As you can see on my blog, I haven’t posted anything since before I moved to Guam last year. I definitely have a lot of personal issues I could have posted about, but I find myself wanting to keep them private now that I’m older. I tried working through them by writing, but never felt like they were good enough to post.

I’ve decided I don’t care if it’s not good enough anymore.

My love for personal writing is too important to leave dormant.

If it means missing out on parties or hanging out with friends, this is the price I’ll have to pay for reviving a skill and a huge source of joy and satisfaction.

I’m usually too exhausted to write for myself because I write every day for work, but I’m determined not to let that stop me from keeping my own voice alive. I rarely get to write in the first person perspective as a reporter, which is my natural writing voice, so it’s difficult to maintain.

My writing voice isn’t the same now as it was in college when I first started Lovescrewed.

Maybe I’m a different person. Maybe I’m out of practice.

But I’m going to push through writer’s block and my uncertainties and create my new voice — even if I suck at first or it sounds unnatural. I’ll find her again eventually.

Not responding to everyone all the time

Every time someone messages me and I don’t respond, I feel terrible. Every single time. I carry that with me for days, but I just don’t have the time or energy to reconnect with every old college friend, family member, or acquaintance who reaches out to me through social media or texts (not to make myself sound like I’m oh so popular and turning away hundreds of messages).

I care about all of them, but I need to sacrifice some of these interactions and connections for my own mental health. I feel bad about it, but I hope they understand and I still wish them the best.

Eating healthier

This life change is twofold:

1. Actually going grocery shopping – Instead of eating out every meal, I started buying frozen vegetarian/organic dinners at the grocery store for every day of the week.
It’s this lazy girl’s way of avoiding cooking but still eating healthier than fast food or eating out at restaurants. I know eventually I’ll transition into cooking healthy food for myself when I’m ready, but das not today.

2. Not buying shitty food – This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s actually hard not to do this! Ever since I started buying food for myself in college, I filled up my cart with chips, candy, and those Totino pizzas that cost $1 each.
Now when I go to the grocery store, I buy more fruits and veggies, healthy juice and kombucha (which I still think tastes like carbonated ass), and real cheese. This way when I inevitably get the munchies, I have nothing but healthy food available.

Exercise

I still need to work on this. I’ve been swamped with work over the past few weeks and haven’t made time for exercise since I work early and come home late and exhausted. But my grandparents bought an exercise bike so I try to do a quick 5 miles, 10 if I have more time (and 12 for the first time today!).

Now that my work schedule has freed up a bit, I’m going to try to make time to go to the gym once or twice a week after work for cardio and light weights. I was dedicated to taking yoga classes every Friday from January to April this year, and I want to get back to it.

Drinking more water

This may be TMI, but when I came back from Thailand my pee was radioactive yellow for like two weeks. I think I drank too much juice and too little water (I hate paying for water and all they have available is bottled water there). It was pretty scary.

I try to drink two fills of my 32 oz Hydro Flask (I looked up how much water I need to drink every day to stay healthy). This isn’t always doable, mostly because I’m too lazy to get up and refill my bottle at the water cooler across the office space (hey, are most of my problems rooted in laziness?!), but I try to do it for the sake of clear skin and non-radioactive pee.

Skincare

I’m #blessed not to have too many blemishes, but living on a humid tropical island leaves me naturally much oilier than I was living in California so I have to try harder to get a glowing complexion.

Healthy liquids 

Drinking more water definitely helps. I also find my skin is better when I eat less sugary or fatty foods (what a revelation!), but those are the best!
When I have time, I drink a mix of 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, sprinkled cayenne powder, a squirt of calamansi (lemon/lime), a little less than a tablespoon of honey (I’m trying to cut this down, but ACV tastes like ass, much like kombucha) and water.

This is supposed to help improve skin, along with a bunch of other health benefits, and I *think* it works for me. Or it’s the placebo effect, in which case I’m still happy.

Facial skincare routine

I’ve been sticking to a routine of washing my face with a mild Dove face wash in the morning before work, then applying combination skin formula Neutrogena moisturizer. Then at night, I use an exfoliating St. Ives natural scrub, put on the moisturizer, and apply tea tree oil to acne spots with a q-tip. I’m still experimenting with tea tree oil, but so far it’s been useful with minimizing tiny pimples.

I have a Nordstrom gift card so I’m looking forward to treating myself to some Fresh face masks. I got the rose petal mask sample a couple years ago and absolutely loved the smell and effects on my skin.

Natural deodorant

I also started using natural deodorant, so I wouldn’t have to use one with aluminum or chemical ingredients anymore and clog up my pores. I bought Schmidt’s rose vanilla deodorant at Simply Food on Guam for about $10 (which isn’t much more than they sell for on Amazon) and it smells heavenly! It smells like some kind of pretty rose oil and stays on all day, even when I sweat and work out.

My Post-Grad Experience: Abandoning the safety net of love

For months, I’ve been struggling to write a blog post about what I’ve learned since I graduated from college (15 months ago—I still can’t believe it). I came up with a draft about how I felt stagnant for months, worked in retail for half a year, and interned at a local newspaper (but didn’t get any experience with hard news; even if I did cover hard news, I live in a small college town where the most exciting event is the Farmer’s Market—but hey, the white peaches and freshly-popped kettle corn are amazing).

I realized I couldn’t produce any meaningful writing because I hadn’t really suffered or taken any risks—I didn’t get a low-paying entry-level job in my field, move out on my own and struggle to pay rent in a tiny apartment in San Francisco with 5 roommates, or spend a year teaching English in Thailand (all of which are paths that people I know took after graduating). I also hadn’t progressed much either. I didn’t even bother to apply to graduate school (let alone establish connections with my professors or try hard enough to get straight A’s) or apply to any jobs at all for months.

I settled into the uncertainty of post-grad life that had stressed me out all of senior year, but I got too comfortable. I lived in an upper middle class suburb with my parents, I lifted weights three times a week in our home gym, I binge-watched way too many new shows (I’m ashamed to admit I spent two weeks doing nothing but watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians), and my only friends were my kid siblings and my cats. It felt like college never happened at all. I looked through my old photos obsessively and posted them on Instagram, not ready to move on from the past (the #tbt sadness is real). I missed the freedom to be out at 2am without having to answer to anyone (but to be honest, I spent most of college in my room watching Netflix), I missed being able to hike alone to the beach, I missed having friends I could watch scary movies or dance in clubs with, I missed walking around campus and feeling like I belonged when I ran into people I knew. I missed going to meetings and having discourse and educational presentations about social justice issues, and believing that the non-profit organizing I did mattered. I missed having the drive and pain to write raw pieces about self-love and heartbreak for my blog. I missed having an identity outside of who I was when I was back home with my family.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m incredibly grateful for my parents for taking me back in after I graduated and allowing me the time to figure out my own path. I’m especially grateful for how much they supported my decision to quit my part-time job in retail to focus on writing a self-help e-book. I know I’m very privileged, and the fact that my biggest problem is that my life is too comfortable has held me back from writing anything at all. I almost feel as though I don’t deserve to share my voice because my lack of struggle makes me boring and whiny.

Maybe I’m a masochist, but I’ve always believed that pain creates the most meaningful art (my late grandfather, the artist Jose Babauta thought this too). I started Lovescrewed post-heartbreak and my most powerful pieces were about jealousy, breakups, and an abusive relationship. But since I got into a healthy long-term relationship (damn you Nate for making me so happy!) and moved back in with my parents, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any hardships to write about, besides my long distance relationship (which isn’t that bad either—we only live an hour-long plane ride away and visit each other every couple weeks).

About a month ago, I decided to apply for a job at the newspaper on Guam where my great-grandfather, grandmother, and dad all have worked. Guam has always been like a security blanket for me—I know that if I absolutely can’t find work or can’t afford to live in California, I can always come back home and look for a job. My worst case scenario is to return to a beautiful tropical island where all my childhood friends, extended family, and goddaughter live, and I can get paid to write (yeah, my life sucks). After a few interviews and my first time negotiating salary (I’m a big girl now!), I landed my first adult job, as a fourth-generation legacy at the newspaper that brought my family to the island in the first place. My heart swells just thinking about spending time with my baby first cousins, living at my grandma’s house where her backyard is literally a waterfall, reconnecting with all my friends from growing up, and most importantly eating at Jamaican Grill and Capricciosa (the list of foods I want to eat on Guam is much longer than the ones of people I want to see and activities).

Despite all the awesome positives of moving back to the motherland, I’ve been staying up past 3am and sleeping in almost till noon—as I always do when I’m depressed or going through a big life change. Taking this reporter job and living in paradise for a while seems like a no-brainer, but all I can think about is saying goodbye to my four parents, my younger sisters and brothers, and my boyfriend of two and a half years. I know my family will be here when I come back (not knowing exactly when I’ll return makes me feel even more anxious) but I’ve never gone so far away from them for so long. It hurts just thinking that I could possibly lose a whole year of my little sister and brother’s lives, and they’ve already lost their baby voices and are catching up to me in shoe sizes. And it scares the shit out of me thinking that I could risk ruining a happy relationship with the love of my life for a job I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy yet.

The fear of change and loss is so crippling to me that when I first got my job offer to stay for a year, my first instinct was to say no and to just take my safer path and become a teacher. I could probably be happy getting my master’s degree, living in Southern California, and teaching middle school, but my dad asked me: which option excites you more? Undoubtedly, the idea of working in journalism and getting out of my comfort zone (admittedly, into another comfort zone, but without the safety of my immediate family with me) is more exciting to me. Settling into my backup plan, albeit a great one, feels like I’m lying to myself about what I really want. I told him that I felt selfish for choosing a job halfway around the world, especially while I’m in a relationship, but he told me that it hurts to feel like I’m not choosing my partner, but it would be even worse not to choose myself.

I don’t know if this job will make me happy. I don’t know if I’ll love living back on Guam as much as I’ve romanticized it in my head after being away for the past six years. I don’t know if my relationship will stay just as solid while we’re 17 time zones apart. But I do know that if I stay comfortable, if I let my parents take care of me forever, if I don’t take a chance on myself and do what scares me (but ultimately excites me), I won’t get back the drive to write like I had before. I’m afraid of losing the safety net of my parents and the security in my romantic relationship, but I’m even more terrified of how much of myself I’ve lost since college—the pieces of my individuality that keep me staring at old photos of myself from when I knew who I was—and how much more of myself I could lose if I don’t take action by pushing myself to grow more. Things could go wrong, but for the first time in over a year, I’m betting on myself.