Let’s Talk About: Luisa

To avoid confusion, this is Luisa:

Luisa hugging Mirabel

I avoided talking about Encanto on my blog thus far because this is not a movie review blog. But “slice of life” goes only so far.

In my opinion, Encanto is one of the most relatable movies that has ever been made. Hard not to relate to film where the central theme is generational trauma. That’s a heavy topic! I have never been able to see something of myself in so many characters in one film.

Luisa is my absolute most favorite. Prior to seeing the film, I expected Isabela to be my favorite because she’s all about flowers, which are the most gorgeous things in the world to me. But she was a jerk until roughly the last twenty minutes of the film, and I don’t like mean characters. Stoic, standoffish, “mean but they really care”, sure. But not purely mean, and while we get the reason for it, it doesn’t really explain her behavior. But I’ll talk more about Isabela in another post.

A glance at my left sidebar will reveal the video of Surface Pressure to your eyesight. This is Luisa’s signature song, where she musically explains the tremendous pressure she feels and weight she carries. Since this is Disney we’re talking about, the visuals are dazzlingly magnificent – nothing less expected from Disney – but the only song that has ever hit me the way Surface Pressure does is Show Yourself from Frozen 2. It took four re-watches before I stopped crying to that.

For me, the most hard-hitting line in this song is:

“I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service!”

I… just… I… damn! I was not prepared for that when I first watched Encanto. Holy cow! Did Disney really sum up my entire existence in one line? Did… did they really do that?
But if it stopped there, I wouldn’t have more to say. The best way I can sum it up is this: Who gave Disney permission to put my life in a song? Who did it?!

“Who am I if I can’t carry it all?”

“I hide my nerves and it worsens, I worry something is gonna hurt us”

“I think about my purpose, can I somehow preserve this?”

“Line up the dominoes, a light wind blows, you try to stop it toppling, but on and on it goes”

“Give it to your sister, it doesn’t hurt and see if she handle every family burden”

“Who am I if I don’t have what it takes? No cracks, no breaks… no mistakes… No pressure!

Alright, Disney, you can stop now! I’ve had physical pain that hurt less! I do not attend films with the expectation of being crushed by feelings!

Some of the lyrics in the Spanish version are more heartbreaking.

“Something troubles me and it’s getting worse, I must save everyone”

“The picture of me I display shatters in a moment”

“Can I ever get rid of this cruel weight?”

“She will hold all our foundations”

“See if she can hold even our grief”

“What if I fall down and can’t be the one I must be? Without pressure, without weight?”

I said that’s enough, Disney! Goddamn! Therapy is not as hard hitting! I did not ask for my trauma to be personified on the big screen, let alone in an upbeat, seemingly innocuous song in a family film.

Show Yourself hits me hard because it’s a powerfully uplifting ballad about self-love, whereas Surface Pressure crushes me for tearing apart just about every facet of my being and putting it into words. Disney really decided, “You face your demons today.” They could’ve asked permission at the very least.

Outside of Surface Pressure, Luisa continues to be an overall precious character. I love how Disney portrayed her. She’s big and she’s proud of her strength, but she’s not dumb – a common stereotype of strong characters in media – she’s not ugly, she’s loving, and she’s emotional. It’s kind of glossed over, but the movie shows the problem is not Luisa’s supernatural strength, but how it’s taken advantage. That is definitely an important distinction to make. Nothing is wrong with Luisa, and her gift is not the problem. What’s wrong is how she’s treated.

I hated being the older sibling, but I would kill for a big sister like Luisa. The scenes where she gets hysterical are supposed to be funny, but they only make me sad for her. She is that precious. There is a part of the fandom that imagines Luisa as shy and non-assertive, and I love that idea!

Encanto is intended to become a series, similar to how Frozen became its own franchise, and whatever happens, I really hope Luisa doesn’t turn into a caricature of her muscles. Disney really has good characterization for her in the movie. I pray they keep it. Let her have character development (like learning to assert herself when necessary), but keep her the same at heart.

A Degree’s Value

“No one told you to return to college.”

This statement comes from my mom when I make the mistake of of venting about my frustration of paying for college out of pocket.

When I remind her she, and the rest of the family, nagged me relentlessly about college when I was in high school, she retorts, “You were a teenager!”

I feel this sums up the mentality surrounding college in a nutshell. If nothing else, it proves many people who relentlessly push college, like my mom, do so only because it’s “the next step”. Not because they have any understanding, not because they know what it entails, not because they think the cost is worth it, but solely because “it’s what you’re supposed to do”.

But the super irritating part for me is this statement makes my mom a hypocrite. She returned to college beyond her teens. She attended college when I was fifteen years old, putting her in her late thirties. However, nothing came of that experience and the college shut down some years later. Supposedly, the college was not consider legitimate. I don’t know for certain if that’s the case, but I know my mom did not research colleges beforehand (she never researches anything) and she’s technologically illiterate in general, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case.

A few nights ago, three friends and I had a night out together. We talked, played pool, and ate at a restaurant (with unpleasantly loud music). Something I found interesting is we all had degrees – or, in my case, in the process of getting a degree – but none of us were in our fields.

  • Friend #1 has a degree in criminal justice, and works in recruiting for a major company (unrelated to police or security).
  • Friend #2 has a degree in early childhood education and works as a security guard (albeit in a high school, so he still works with kids).
  • Friend #3 has a degree in liberal studies and works as a cashier at our local mall.
  • I am completing a degree in information technology management, and I want to be a designer.

I commented I was the last to have a degree, and one friend said, “At least, you’re getting it.”

Despite none of them use their degrees beyond the sake of getting their resumes past the filters – and that will likely be the case for mine as well – they were all content with their careers and expressed no regret for their degrees. I share this sentiment about getting my degree. I don’t like the debt, but I enjoy the experience and am eager for December.

Call back: “What Do You Want To Be?”

When you grow up?

At the not young age of twenty-eight, I finally have the answer: a UI designer and front-end developer. I can’t say I’m surprised.

The problem is technology is very difficult to break into, especially without a degree in computer science. It’s not impossible, but so much harder. Add design on top of it, which is not exactly notorious for being an in-demand skill, and enough said. Coding itself is endless learning, and I can’t see the day I’m ready to make a project, let alone have a job, arriving in the near or far future. Doesn’t mean I won’t try, but like my previous attempts at any job outside of warehouse and customer service so far, it’ll likely prove fruitless. All my plans for the future are made with my current wage because it’s not a good idea to bet on an income you don’t have. And no, saying “I will have X” doesn’t make it happen. I would have an unbroken family, and be an only child, if that were the case.

Coding isn’t necessary to be a UI designer, but it is necessary to be a front-end developer. I have no interest in back-end or being full-stack, so I don’t care about that. Interesting thing about college graphic design programs is most require a portfolio, which is weird to me. If you can make a portfolio, a graphic design program is likely little more than a formality. I’m attending college because I don’t have the skills and am a poor self-learner. Speaking of which, I’m envious of people who can give themselves college-esque structure. Student debt is never a concern for anyone who can learn outside of academics. Yes, I can learn outside of it. School just does it better than I can. In short, I either devote more time or more money, and the latter has a specific number, so I prefer that. Easier to network when you pay for it too. Not a guarantee, but easier.

I don’t even have my certificate from my trade school anymore. I lost it at some point, but considering how the jobs from that turned out, it’s not something I want on my resume anyway. It’s still embarrassing to be ten years out of high school and have nothing to show for it, but it’s not like there’s a reunion, so who needs to know? In truth, I’ll probably be in a warehouse for the rest of my life, but it’s still better than retail, which is a much worse fate. No one is paid enough for that nonsense.

Sometimes, I feel I want degrees and courses only because I don’t know how else to move on. As I said, I am not a good self-teacher, so those are proof I’m capable of something. Granted, bachelor’s degrees are said to be the new high school diploma, and I’m getting an associate’s, so I’m still not on par. But that’s my life in a nutshell from birth, so what else is new?

Ten Years: A Reflection

I debated between making this a birthday post or a blog anniversary one. I chose birthday since it’s not about the blog.

Today is my 28th birthday. A decade since what was supposed to be my HS graduation year (was forced to take an extra year due to transferring districts). It feels rather surreal. I don’t know how to feel about it.

I know 18-year-old me would be surprised I’m still here, and at the things I do. I dealt with bullying throughout all of my school years. Always had a few friends, but was overall extremely shy, didn’t do extracurriculars, and struggled with schoolwork. Didn’t date at all (because any guy who asked me out did it only as a joke), and I was heavily sheltered, so outside of the occasional afternoon with a friend, my time out of school was spent at home. Wanted to work, but they didn’t want me to do even that. Yet, complained I never went out. Huh.

If you told me at the age of 18 that in ten years, I’d:

  • Almost never spend a full day at home
  • Have a relationship of now 7 years with someone who cannot take his eyes off of my undressed body
  • DRIVE (I failed the class my high school provided us and never tried again)
  • Regularly travel between NJ and NY, and travel all over NJ (I used to do Uber/Lyft)
  • Meet men who deem me attractive, and who flirt with me (I hate this, but it still shocks me)
  • Be in college again, do well, and not hate it (dropped out of college when I was 19)
  • Have money, have credit, get into investing (Budget? In my family? What is that?)
  • Wouldn’t be pregnant (never wanted kids, but family always talked about pregnancy as something inevitable; everyone is a single parent or in a toxic marriage, no in between)

And, finally, the biggest one of all:

  • Be capable of holding down a full-time job and financially supporting myself, even if I struggle for a while. (Everyone from my family to my teachers told me I wouldn’t make it in adulthood if my grades didn’t get better, and my high school pushed college as a life or death thing)

If you told me at 18 this is what I could reflect on in ten years, I’d call you a liar and glare at you like you sprouted a second head. If 2020 hadn’t been the year it was, my boyfriend and I would’ve moved in together, but it’s now in the cards for 2023.

I say often I don’t feel my life differs much from when I was a teenager, but what I listed above is very different. None of that describes me at 18 at all.

But I still want someone to hug me, rub my back, and tell me I’m okay. I still need that.

A Self-Imposed Deadline

I have a new goal: Become debt-free by 40.

Paying off my debts is already a goal, but that’s focused on my credit card debts. I want to have zero debt whatsoever. No, I don’t care about “leveraging”. Owing money in no way makes me feel good. It really serves only to give me anxiety.

Credit cards: $5,210

Community college: $3,629.10

Student loans: $27,800

Private loans: $10,392.40

Total debt: $47,031.50

So, altogether, I am in $47,031.50 worth of debt at this moment. My 28th birthday is in next month, which means I am giving myself twelve years to pay down all of this debt without accruing more.

($47,031.50 / 12 years = $3919.30 per year) / 12 months =$326.61 per month.

I’ll round it up to $330. I must give a minimum of $330 per month to my debts to be debt-free by age forty. In twelve years, that would total $47,520. Not accounting for interest.

Why did I choose age forty? Because I feel like if I don’t have my life together by that age, there is no hope for my life in any capacity. I am embarrassed to not have my life figured out when I’m nearly pushing thirty. It took me too long to figure out what I want to do as a job. It’s not a good look to have the life of a 20-year-old (school, work, living at home) while everyone else your age, older, and younger is getting married, has kids, new houses and cars, travels, and vacations. And no, that’s not an exaggeration. I’m the only one of my friends who will have completed college, and while it is something I want, it really feels like it pales in comparison because they’re in the place someone around my age is expected to be. At thirty, you’re expected to have the career, the marriage, the kid(s), the car, the house, and the trips. Not all of them have all of that, but all of them have at least one. So, what the heck am I doing? Don’t answer that.

I’m not “young and fresh” anymore. I’m not the future. I’m not a 16-year-old who everyone looks at and thinks of having a bright future ahead. I don’t have all the time in the world. On the contrary, I’m running out of it. If I wanted kids, I have no idea where I would fit them in. I couldn’t imagine where I would fit them in if I went on the standard path, so I can’t imagine how I would fit them in on the unusual path I’m on.

That said, I’ve thought about that a lot, so I want to map it out.

Ages 14 to 18 would be high school.

Ages 18 to 22 would be college.

Work right out of college, so career at 22 (I know that doesn’t always happen, but it’s presumed).

I don’t know when marriage would happen, but I wouldn’t want to marry while in college. No idea when I would meet someone, but I met my boyfriend a few months before my 21st birthday. I would want to wait at least four years before marrying (yes, I know the length of time is irrelevant; it’s a comfort thing), so let’s say 25.

Married at 25, and working for three years. I highly doubt three years is enough to consider yourself “established”. At 30, I would have eight years in the field if I didn’t stop working, but it goes without saying having even one child would interrupt that. I also wouldn’t want to have a child right after getting married. Maybe I wouldn’t wait five years, but I must admit I’m unsure how I’d plan that.

Come to think of it, no one ever says what to do after college. Go to college to get a job. After that, what do you do?

But my point stands, so I repeat: if I couldn’t figure out how to fit a child into my life when I’m doing things right, I have no clue how I’d do it when I am doing everything wrong.

Of course, with 40 being 22 years since adulthood, being debt-free and having a college degree is very little to claim for one’s self. My friends with kids will be halfway done with child-rearing by then, and will no doubt have many more accomplishments (and that of their kids) to their names. And I know it sounds weird to talk about all of this since, as I said, I don’t want kids. But I do occasionally wonder if I’m supposed to want them. The feeling didn’t really happen until one of my friends became a parent, and I sincerely like kids, so it’s not a hate thing. Of course, that would mean I want to be a parent to fit in, not because I want to be a parent, which is a terrible reason to take that plunge.

I also grew up in a family that cared excessively about their image to strangers, absolutely chastised me (and that’s putting it mildly) for not caring, simultaneously sheltered and abused me, and I faced bullying throughout my all of my K – 12 school years. So, that’s probably also influencing my thoughts.

Hopefully, this degree will lead to a job where I make enough money to afford therapy.