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Finding Home

Hi, my name is Hannah Faith, but I never go by that, my friends just call me Hannah or Hannerz. I just turned 26 last month, a little fact which eventually becomes relevant in this little story about me. I'm your typical first generation Filipina-American daughter, who still lives at home with my Mom, Dad, and Brother, who’s just trying to figure out life, and honestly, probably never will, and that’s okay and something that took a while for me to learn.

I have lived in the same two bedroom apartment on the West Side of Long Beach with my family my whole life. Growing up my parents made sure I had everything I needed, wanted, and more. It wasn’t until I was older I would realize the socioeconomic differences I had with those around me. My Dad, the main income earner in our household did and still continues to work hard to provide for my family and I. Growing up with a brother with on the autism spectrum, my Mom wasn’t able to work as she needed to be home to help take care as well as raise me and my brother. However, being home not working the “traditional jobs” other parents had she was able to provide in many ways, through babysitting and catering orders. My parents never made it look like we had less than anyone growing up. The only difference to me was that others had “homes.” I learned my work ethic from them and they are the reason I work so hard.

At the age of fifteen I decided to get my first job with no pressure from my parents. They actually questioned it and were reluctant as they wanted me to focus on school. Since then there was never a period where I wasn’t working. At times I would be working two jobs while I was going to school; that was up until when the pandemic hit. I had just graduated the year before from Cal State Long Beach with my Bachelors in Child Development and Family Studies and a Bachelors in Family Life Education, and was teaching in my own preschool classroom after years of being a substitute for several schools. I had plans of returning to my classroom, but I was now out of a job.

Like almost everyone I had no idea what to do as it seemed as if nothing was uncertain and that the world just seemed like it shut down. Nothing was in my control, I was baking to kill the boredom using an old oven that at any time could stop working. After not seeing my friends for weeks, I decided to bake and deliver cookies for all of them. They posted the little baggies I made to their Instagram stories, tagged my personal insta, and the DM’s were coming in. People were asking about the cookies. I knew I couldn't take orders since my oven was unreliable, I was also a bit embarrassed of where I lived as it isn’t the best looking neighborhood.

After getting over that insecurity and realizing if people want to support, they'll support no matter what and if people want to judge me they’re the type of people I don’t need support from. I started a small business making “take and bake” cookie dough which was the start of Hannah Faith Bakes. Things were going well. I had control of something and it was this small business. I was taking orders and making cookie dough and taking care of pick ups once , sometimes twice a week. I told my parents I got my first cookie order for a baby shower. My parents saw what I had going on and we got a new oven as they were a bit worried if the oven we had would still work by the time I had to make that baby shower order. With this new oven I was able to expand and make cookies and I ended the year selling out Holiday Cookie Tins, which was the beginning to the start of the Cookie Sets my small shop would soon be known for.

Then came 2021, I went through my first break up at 24, something you’d think I’d deal with in my teen years. I felt confused, lost, and alone. Add in the confusion of not knowing if teaching was still in my future plans, I had no motivation for anything. I stopped baking. I had no idea what was going on with myself and didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about my problems. l would lash out unexpectedly. I acted like everything was alright, continued to joke around, and post my life as if nothing had happened. I was simply going through the motions of things.

It wasn’t until that summer when I noticed my hair was falling out drastically. I set up an appointment with a dermatologist and after going over my blood test they told me I had alopecia. They asked me if I had been stressed and I broke down and cried. That was the moment I knew I had to start opening up about what was going on with me. I had to feel in order to heal. The things I had been silently stressing about were manifesting in my body causing things to not only affect me mentally and emotionally, but now physically. I started steroid injections that day.

I turned to my small business again to keep me busy in hopes it would get my mind off the stress, but in hindsight it backfired and caused me even more stress. But I couldn’t stop, I was doing so well. After numerous times of getting rejected, I had my first pop up in October 2021 with Goods on Orange who took a chance on me and let me join them. 600 cookies, I sold out in 20 minutes. I was popping up all over Long Beach, from Ground Hideout Coffee in Downtown to Cassidy’s Corner in Bixby Knolls, people were lining up early for cookies. I was building momentum with my small business getting invited to do pop ups and selling out everytime.

I was doing everything and anything to keep myself busy which included enrolling in a weight training class and going back to school for grad school prerequisites. I also picked up another side gig helping families by recreating preschool in their homes. As I sat in my car after a teaching session I realized it was finals week and the workout class I signed up for was coming to an end. I opened Yelp and saw the closest gym was 4th Quarter Fitness. I signed up for a meeting and a week later signed up and would start that December after finals week.

When asked why I wanted to sign up I said “my parents are getting older, get healthier without turning to my previous eating disorder, and be able to work better”. In reality though, I had a laundry list of more reasons for signing up for the gym; my parents are getting older and I need to be able to take care of not only them but my brother too, I’m doing more things alone and want more independence to do things without physical limitations, and I want to prove to others I can do things that I couldn’t see myself doing. I hid behind the main reason of if I’m not mentally strong, at least I’m physically strong. This was something I wouldn’t realize until later that would be blocking my own growth in and out of the gym.

I would be lying if I said after a few months of working out I was starting to feel better. There were days I would question who I was and cry on my way to the gym knowing I would be okay once I worked it out and there were other days I would come in still crying and walk straight to the restroom. No matter how my day started, I made sure I would make sure to show up regardless, not just for the workout, not because I paid for the month, not because I had the coaches keeping me accountable, but to show up for myself. It finally clicked, I needed to always show up for myself. That small step led me to focus on me, and only myself for once.

I started to become more honest with myself. Doing the shadow work and reflecting on the good parts in my life and on the areas that needed improvement. I created a vision board of who and where I wanted to be six months from now. I soon started opening up and reaching out to my friends for the help and support I needed from them, and slowly started opening up and talking more at the gym. Once I made the shift to focusing on healing and improving on the areas in my life I was not happy with things started to fall into place. I worked harder in school, the gym, my small business, and in strengthening my relationships with my family, friends, and most importantly myself. I picked up the “dgaf & shoot your shot mentality”, the worst that could happen is I get a no, best case scenario would be I get one step closer to what I want. I stopped caring about what others would think, I chose me. My alopecia had gotten better and finally stopped my injections treatments after a year, I had applied and got into grad school, I contacted and worked with more small businesses for pop ups, and I did things outside my comfort zone that I would normally be too shy or scared to try.

Lots of things were going well and falling into place, something I wasn’t used to. The breakdowns came back and the imposter syndrome kicked in, this time in waves for the next few weeks. Who am I? What am I doing? Can I do it? Why am doing this? I would often jokingly refer to these breakdowns as my “Quarter Life Crisis” and say that once I turn 26 it would be smooth sailing from there. A few days before my 26th birthday, I had another breakdown and told my friends I'm canceling the small party that I had planned, they said no we’re still having it. The day of my party came and I wanted to just get it over with. Ironically, the joke of everything will be fine once I turn 26 came true.

I was the happiest I had been in a long time. I was surrounded by those closest to me who helped me navigate the chaotic year I had as a 25 year old. It was a physical representation of all the friendships and relationships I had strengthened and worked on. I was surrounded by those who made sure I was supported and loved in the lowest and darkest of times and this was the sign for me to now give myself the love I've been receiving.

The past year has been a blessing in disguise. I was able to focus and learn about myself. I found myself. I am thankful to have a supportive family, friends, and community that has been here for me through it all. Although I know there will be days that will be far from perfect, I have learned to give myself grace and know that I am blessed and more than deserving to have all the good things that come into my life. There is no timeline in life and things will always work out in the end, it just may not be in the way you had expected them to. I’ll get to where I want to be, I’m going to make it, and I’ll finish strong. Although I may still be living in a small 2 bedroom apartment and not living in a “home” just yet, I am happy to say I have found home in those I have surrounded myself with and share my life with; a home where I am loved “wholly and unconditionally, without barriers, restrictions, judgments, or expectations” - a safe home, a community filled with love and support.

- ♡ hannerz

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