Growing up as a 1st generation Filipina American, I always desired a kindred sense of belonging with others and needed an escape from my dysfunctional family.

It was challenging, because I lived in a strict and sheltered upbringing within a small rural town. There was very little opportunity to go out anywhere or make friends. I was constantly trapped by family obligations, intimidation, pain, anxiety, fear, and high expectations.

As a way to cope, I kept to myself, by drawing a lot and making arts and crafts. In elementary school, my drawings were featured in county-wide school newspapers.

Once, I took a blank book, wrote and drew my own life story, and published it in the school library. Aside from drawing, I also made beaded jewelry from craft kits I received on Christmas.

And on days when my father was not drinking, I begged to learn how to make wooden signs
with his scroll saw machine.

Fast forward to 2019, a pivotal moment of heartbreak and spiraling grief had me operating
at my lowest point in life. It was worsened by reoccurring family issues, career doubts, a lack
of friendships, and no sense of community.

Painful emotions of anxiety, betrayal, shame, and guilt, surfaced, stemming from the loss, and also compounded by unresolved childhood trauma. I almost wanted to end my life, and had lost my sense of self, and my joy. So in order to restore myself, I made many changes to invite more play, freedom, creativity, and fulfillment. And so, I began to live "mas masaya."