2020 has been a trip

january 2, 2021
The week I was supposed to fly to New York last year, my hopes and dreams were crushed, chopped up, and thrown in the trash. Indefinitely. 

If my years were scenes of me in a kitchen, 2018 and 2019 would depict me gently mandolining veggies. seasoning them. roasting the wonderful little cross sections in a buttery, delicious simmer, carefully arranging the finished little slices into a beautiful and presentable pattern, with a thin drizzle of sauce zig-zagged on top.

2020 is when I take that wonderful dish full of my hopes, dreams, and energy, and throw it in the garbage.

In March, I was supposed to get on my $129 Spirit Airlines flight, make my favorite agency fall in love with me, make tons of cash and rake in heaps of cred.

But instead, some stupid pandemic hit and I had to get a refund on my flight.

Like if you cri everytiem.
The next few months would be full of emotion. Of disappointment. Of setbacks. Of wondering when or if I’ll ever get to shine my light to the world. Of reminding myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me. Of supporting others whose worlds also weren’t spinning in the way they wanted.

But I’d be lying if I said 2020 hasn’t delivered me heaps of good on the back end.

I count myself lucky to have spent quarantine with people I love.

I was fortunate enough to be able to find gainful employment through freelance work - enough to keep me healthy and safe out of harm’s way working from home.

And now I count myself even luckier to say that I have recently found full-time employment at a place that the Nod of two years ago could only dream about.

2020 was a trip.

Lots of crying. I like doing it now. It’s nice.

This week. I’m going to be signing the lease on a new apartment.

But this time -- my move to New York comes with a renewed appreciation for what I want, who I am, and what I need. 

It’s fair to say I’ve grown a lot.

It’s been an odd year. A path full of switchbacks and roundabouts and “hold yer horses” to keep me humble.

But if anything -- the year of 2020 has prepared me to be real. 


100% true headline #3

“Ol’ Faithful found in bed with another guy-ser.”


100% true headline #2

“Royalty quits royalty, becomes ex-royalty, plays royalties, to get royalties.”


100% true headline #1

“Local Tesla owner charged with battery.”


box of blue

january 9, 2019
in box of blue lives beauty brief
summation there of endless deep

in box of blue is sea made small
in box of blue lie dark and light
in box of blue, the blue is full
o’ color, scent all rich delight

in tiny time we spend made one
it simple ‘nough to listen keen
to soak in, wonder all the world
that flaunt its might to we


on immigration, by an immigrant

february 19, 2016

Author’s Note: This piece is something I wrote in in 2016 when the topic of immigration was a hotly debated issue during the election season. It’s wordy, I tend to digress into the superfluous, and my political outlook was still in its infancy. However - despite its shortcomings - it was honest, and I stand by the spirit with which I wrote it.
I tend to steer clear of engaging in political discourse.

In my experience, political discussions frequently seem to devolve into sweaty, red-faced shouting matches, and even though participation in one of those battles has always been a particularly tantalizing dream of mine, I prefer to sit back and listen; holding back on dispensing my own opinion. For me, politics are an intensely personal affair.

Because of this preference, I usually end up becoming a wallflower when anything political is brought to the table, meaning that I rarely take part in discussion; that everything I hear is filed away for later contemplation. And for all my years of quietly listening and contemplating, I've come away with one substantial opinion of my own: that intense political disagreements between two unmoving and uncompromising parties are quite ludicrous and a monumental waste of oxygen.

But wait, readers of this rant may have a couple questions for me:

Isn't that obvious? If you turn up your nose at any whiff of political discussion, what makes you qualified to rant about anything political? Are you saying political exchanges shouldn't occur?

I'm not saying that I find political discourse to be an inherent waste of time, or that I'm at all qualified to lecture anyone on its fallacies. It's quite the opposite. Despite my reservations for sharing my opinion and the high potential for debates to break down into a verbal bloodbaths, most of what I hear during a heated debate is two parties 'caring loudly' at one another. Discussion is one of the few avenues to progress, so why not take advantage of it?

Personally, all I'm saying is that I have never encountered a topic that I've ever felt compelled to share my views on. But I suppose now things are different. Now, I've found a subject so relevant to me, so constant in my life, so present in one of my jobs at my university it demanded that I finally take the time to care loudly about it to anyone who wants to listen. That topic is immigration.

To clarify, yes, I am Filipino. And yes:

I am an immigrant.

For a while now, there have been a number of sweaty, red-faced debates on immigration and the potential policies the United States should take to deal with the possible influx of refugees, as well as illegal immigrants from the Mexican border. With the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, American citizens and the rest of the world now wait with bated breath to see what will happen next.

Will our new president follow up on his campaign promise to build a wall and to make Mexico pay for it? Will the 'dreamers' - a term coined by former President Barack Obama for the children of illegal immigrants - be allowed to stay within the country despite the fact that their parents broke the sovereignty of the United States and its borders?

I have no idea.

I'm not a politician. I don't religiously check Twitter for the latest updates on the House of Representatives or the Senate. I don't regularly tune into FOX, CNN or any other networks due to the fact that I don't much care for television. However, I do follow several accounts dedicated to puppies on Instagram, so I suppose I've got that to keep me informed.

In short, I don't claim to be the most informed person to talk about immigration and other political subjects. I don't constantly check newspapers or watch partisan networks to keep up with the latest politicking. Like many others, I have other things going on in my life that I'd rather be doing with my time. As a result, I'm not the most informed individual when it comes to politics.

All I know for sure is my own experience.

My first day in the United States was March 18th, 2002. I was six years old.

My mother and I disembarked from our plane at SeaTac airport, where my soon-to-be adoptive father was waiting to receive us. And even though I was so young, I remember a lot about the experience. A few of the little thoughts that I vividly remember coming to my head include:

  • My first impression of America was that it was oh so cold... apparently snow is a thing that happens here? And everyone's okay with that?

  • Coming from a country that Wikipedia describes as having an 'oppressive' humidity, it's no surprise that the concept of snow was totally bonkers for six-year old me.

  • Everyone is white. Why? Isn't the default for humans yellowish brown skin, just like mine and my mom?

At first, things didn't seem all that different. I still had the same amount of fun, I still got into the same amount of trouble as I did in the Philippines, and I was still as picky as ever. Everything felt the same, except now I had a Playstation 2.

But I soon grew to realize the differences between my new home and my old one.

My quality of life in America was substantially greater than my life in the Philippines. As I aged, I realized that it was all thanks to my Dad, who made our immigration possible.

If I had to choose the MVP for my life, my father would be the number one choice. Without my Dad, my mother and I would be living drastically different lives.

We would still be sans snow in the oppressively humid Philippines, and we definitely wouldn't have had the same opportunities that we have here in the states. I wouldn't be in college studying what I love - supporting an incredibly inconsistent college football team - and Mom wouldn't be on the cusp of opening her own business.

On an even sadder note, I wouldn't have met my friends Ryan, or Kevan, or Matt, or Janny, or Kierra, or Sheri, or Erik, or Jessica, or Alan, or Nieka, or Luis, or countless other people who have added so much joy to my life.

For my mother and I, immigrating to the United States was and is the best thing that could have happened to us. My upbringing in the U.S. wasn't perfect (as if anyone's life is), but it was without the hardships that face much of the population in the Philippines. For that, I am forever grateful. It's a silent gratitude that I think of before every Thanksgiving dinner. It's something I hope I will not be the last to experience.

When I think of people immigrating into America illegally, I think about myself, I think of what I have, and I think about what I could have gone without. And even though Mom and I got into the country on perfectly legal terms, it doesn't stop me from sympathizing with illegal immigrants. I suppose I can draw more than a few parallels between our stories.

I believe that the vast majority of immigrants are just good, hardworking people looking to create better opportunities for themselves and for their children - children just like me. The United States of America markets itself as the land where anyone of even the most meager of means can come and make something greater of themselves. It doesn't matter if we're black, white, yellow, or purple: the American Dream is available to everyone.

Faced with a child whose parents crossed the border illegally to give him or her a better life, could we say with unshakeable confidence that we would send that child back over the border - all to protect America's sovereignty? Can we blame any parents for doing whatever they think it takes to realize a greater life for themselves and for their children?

Like I've said previously in this long-winded essay, I'm neither a politician nor a pundit. I know there is not one single perfect solution to the immigration issues, and I do not claim that there is one hidden within this poorly organized blogpost. And despite what the above paragraphs may be implying, I don't believe that letting everyone in without some kind of organization is the best solution.

But what I do ask from our president and legislative body is for them to cultivate a mindful sympathy with our desperate neighbors, our potential fellow Americans of the future. I ask them to think upon the words inscribed on the base of our very own Statue of Liberty, a message to the disenfranchised peoples of other nations. I'd like them to keep those words in mind, because the ones crossing the border to get over here don't deserve to simply be called 'illegal aliens.' They're people - with thoughts, feelings and families - just like you and me.

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

- Emma Lazarus, 1883

nod mcfall is an art director at droga5, and is currently based in manhattan, new york city.