I remember my first zit. I was in the sixth grade and it sucked, and it still sucks

Paulina Barios

The prettiest girl in my classroom, Paulina Barrios, pointed to my forehead saying “Dustin, is this your first zit?” I didn’t have the courage to answer yes or no, so I sat in my desk, silently without a response, trying to brace off my embarrassment. For the remainder of the year I tried to avoid Paulina as much as possible. This is my first recollection of being embarrassed about my skin and it wouldn’t be my last


Later on in middle school, I dealt with increasing acne like many of my peers, but unlike many I resorted to medical treatment at Kaiser Permanente. I had health insurance and my mom knew I was insecure about my acne, so she thought it best to check in with a dermatologist. Kaiser Permanent appointed Dr. Swab, a tall mid-forty aged women with a European accent (maybe English) as my main dermatologist for the next three, most important, hormonal teenage years of my life. I probably visited Dr. Swab 10 different times for antibiotics, topical gels, and acne concerned questions before she left her job; Kaiser said Dr. Swab never gave a notice of resignation. There were times when the acne would get better, but moments when my acne would flare back up and I didn’t know if I needed stronger acne care solution or if the prescribed antibiotics and gels weren’t for me.


In the 10th grade I picked up a rash on both arms near my elbow. I didn’t know what it was and neither did my family or friends, except one friend—I think it was Jayme—who said it resembled eczema. What the hell was eczema? I searched it up and I wasn’t startled from what I found, with its common diagnoses in the U.S., I felt relief. Also, because my rash looked more similar to eczema than ringworm and impetigo, which are skin infections popular among wrestlers. Anything but that. I never contracted a skin infection from wrestling, however most of my friends, probably all of them—Ulysses, Greg, Joel, etc.—had all, at least once, contracted ringworm and/or impetigo. These skin infections had your classmates step three steps back from you, saying “eww that’s gross, is that ringworm? Don’t get close to me.” More so, Kaiser came in clutch again. I checked in with Dr. Swab. Believing she had the immediate solution for my problem, I was relieved in visiting her, however this wasn’t my day. Dr. Swab couldn’t diagnose my skin infection, all she could do was run a skin biopsy, removing two small pieces of my skin, and have me wait two weeks for her reply with a diagnosis. When she finally called back two weeks later, nothing checked out, just a skin bacterial infection—How specific. In the end, I rubbed some prescribed cortisone until the infection healed. As for the biopsy incisions . . . well they left a scar, but whatever, they make a great conversation starter. People are always fooled; I tell them I got bit by a snake and that’s the scar to prove it. It’s funny, but looking back, I kind of wish I contracted ringworm to have avoided the thought of being an OutKast in high school.


Since I was three I had this mole above my lip that only grew bigger until I removed it. Well I didn’t remove it of course, my dermatologist did that work. The mole wasn’t even that bad, but people made me feel insecure, especially children. For example, when I was a kid in elementary other students, being the uncensored people they are, would comment on my mole. Then in middle school, no one talked about it but I still felt some sort of resentment for it. In high school I tried getting it removed but my dermatologist Dr. Swab convinced me to keep it because it wasn’t that big and the removal would leave a scar. Pretty much, the thought of having an ugly scare replace my mole convinced me to keep it during high school, however then came college. I didn’t think college would increase my body insecurities more than high school, but it did; I think most students can agree that college is a time more provoked by self-body shaming than high school, considering one leaves their teenage youth and notices the negative effects of aging. You either live through college to watch yourself become sexier or watch your once naturally cute body rot away from stress, bad habits, and laziness.


When I joined a frat during my freshman year of college I knew that my mole was going to distract me from engaging in socials. I knew some people would dismiss it but just the thought of being remembered or labeled as the guy with the mole bothered me. If I was going to feel liberated from social anxiety, I needed to remove my mole, and that’s what I did. I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist—not Dr. Swab—who like Dr. Swab tried to persuade me not to remove my mole but I could not commit. I was going to remove my mole. My next appointment the dermatologist cut off my mole, and for two months I wore a Band-Aid above my once present mole to protect it from harmful scarring by the sun.

Did I really cut of my mole because of greek life?

No, I cut if off because I never liked it

Just another reason to remove my mole

Be healthy

Despite all my challenges and insecurities, I want to say that I am happy. No human will ever have the perfect skin, face, or body because all is subjective; however, you can get pretty damn close to perfection, but that’s not the point. If you want healthy skin, be healthy. What I’ve learned from all my dermatology appointments is that nothing is better for your skin than being healthy. That means eating vegetables and drinking water, and ditching junk food with a shit load of sugar and carbs—shit that gives you belly fat. I caught the flu last month, and for that week that I couldn’t eat anything but crackers and water, I noticed my skin’s complete depletion of acne. Another note, I’m happy because I know what will maximize my happiness. I knew that there was a chance that removing my mole would leave an ugly scar, but I went through with it anyway because a scar would make me happier than a mole above my lip.

PS. In the eighth grade Paulina Barrios told me she had a huge crush on me in the sixth grade, but moved on after I started ignoring her.

Your worst critic is yourself—love don’t judge




I haven’t seen you in two years, there is so much to talk about, yet I ponder the question of what I will tell you.

We agree to meet at Pasadena, where we will finally reunite, and carpool together to Six Flags. While I wait for you, I sit on a bench, alone, until an old lady greets me, engaging in conversation. She is tall, sitting without a cane, wearing only the slightest makeup and cute pink lipstick, telling me how she is from La Verne and is going to visit her sister; I find out later is her identical twin. She asks me about what school I attend and where I am going, which I reply “I go to Ucla and I am waiting for my friend. We’re going to Six Flags.” Her sparse eyebrows raise and her pink lipstick spread, congratulating me for going to school, notably for averting the complacency of living with my parents, which she familiarizes with my cohort.


I disregard my old, pink-lipped, acquaintance, and turn to see you, Ayra. Your body illuminates from the sun shadowing your back, and I feel, I see the hot red energy pulsating from your body, and your yellow charm that greets me with one of the most beautiful smiles I have seen in the past two years of our interlude. The wait is over and we begin to converse. While we advance to Six Flags I give you a breakdown of what’s happened to me since we last spoke. I’m doing most of the talking of course, reminiscent of when we used to talk in high school, and we’re having a good time—I think.

We are close to Six Flags. You begin to navigate your white-egg-shaped Honda from the 210 as I signal the park is to your left. Suddenly, we are rear-ended from the car behind us, and collide with the car in front of us, propelling us forward and back, only to be left in a state of dismay. Fortunately, we were okay and your egg of a car didn’t crack; bad thing was we were in a car accident, and not any car accident: a four car collision. It was frightening but you handled the car accident well. Unlike yourself,  I remember shouting “Oh Fuck!” or was it “Oh Shit!” when the collision happened? You were cool as ice though, not a groan or word came out your lips. The highway patrol came shortly to handle the situation, and we were dismissed.

After the car accident I asked if you still wanted to go to Six Flags and you said yes. It was a relief to hear our plans didn’t turn into a complete fiasco, but if you had said no, I would be completely fine with any of your decisions; whether that be the decision to go home; decision to see a doctor; decision to watch grass grow, etc. As long as we’re together, I knew we would have an alright time.

We finally arrived at the park, and you had to use the bathroom, meanwhile I contemplated the events that had lead up. You’re my friend, and I know I don’t have to impress you, friends should act natural, but because of the accident I was aware of your agitation and felt determined to relieve some of that stress. Namely, The angst of confronting your fears later, when entering your home, trapped to tell your parents the truth of being in a car accident. I made my decision. I was going to act like myself, I suppose my company would be enough. I will never forget that you, Ayra, were one of my first friends to like the flaws on my body—my chipped tooth and mole—I so embarrassingly shied from when we were in high school. You like me for who I am, thus to be anything less than authentic would be a waste of your time, in which case the car accident would have been for nothing.

I suggest we go on X2, which we immediately reconsider after realizing the wait time is two hours. You then made a great point “I want to ride on a roller coaster soon, I don’t want to have to wait.” justifying how going on a roller coaster soon would help alleviate your worries from the car accident faster. We end up riding on Viper first then move our way to less popular rides that possess shorter lines. In all instances before we left the park, we were maximizing the joy of our time together by constantly going on rides, except near the end, when we decided to wait two hours in line to board on what you claim is “smooth” and the”best” roller coaster at Six Flags: Goliath.

There is so much to say about the events that were manifested from our time together. I didn’t go in detail about when we waited in line for water, or how we searched for a place to take a photo, and how I felt uneasy talking about our individual romances since last time we met. Regardless of the accident, a big takeaway is I had a great day, and like the drawings you gave me in high school, they are all memorable. It could be 10 years from now and I won’t forget today, I won’t forget you.

Next time I will not ponder the question, I will casually live side by you, and only then will the unexpected allow the question to come out. Take care Ayra

joshua tree

There are a multitude of stories I can write, experienced within the last two weeks of my first two weeks of my winter quarter, but I will only choose one event.

It was my last day at Joshua Tree with Ucla’s Photography club, which I admit is one of Ucla’s most undervalued and outstanding clubs available to students. Initially, my intention to participate in the field trip was an attempt to acquire photography skills with my Cannon Ti5. However, after three days with my car group—photography club students I had never before met—I experienced a bond, and when it was my time to be dropped off, I was left Unfulfilled.

Joshua Tree is beautiful, and visiting  Joshua Tree with a clique only made it more beautiful. While sitting in the passenger seat, journeying to Joshua Tree, I admired the golden dessert glistening under the sun and its nature scarcely encapsulated from the clouds wild motion. When we arrived to our campsite, Roseanna and Alex constructed their tent while I gave my best effort to build something that looked like a tent. Shortly later, Alex tried to help me fix my tent but was confused. Luckily, someone else from the club could help, and I was on my way to taking photos of Joshua Tree’s natural jewels.

While immersed in nature, I did in fact carelessly climb pile of boulders, which if I had fallen from, I would surely hurt myself or kill myself.  But I wanted to live free, I didn’t want to think about what if; being at Joshua Tree away from home, away from my phone, away from any friends, liberated me. I took some pretty-sweet photos

I can’t recall the last time I’ve felt this important. Understand that since I was new a member, I was mysterious, so my group was asking me all sorts of questions, trying to learn more about me. I had the ability to paint myself; how did I want my peers to interpret this painting. I decided to let my gestures and charisma flow naturally. If I thought something was funny, I laughed; when I was excited, my expression reflected that; when I was happy, I smiled and spoke what I felt. I felt authentic, I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, the trip was temporary and like everyone I payed my dues to come here. I was in my nature form—no, not natural, I mean nature form.

On my way back, Roseanna, Alex, Brianna, and I stopped to eat at an authentic style Chinese restaurant in Pasadena. I must state that besides a group of caucasian girls who camped with us but stuck together, I was the only non-asian member in the club’s trip. Again I felt more important, simply because I was different. While we ate, I can also recall Roseanna asking me about my Mexican heritage, and surprisingly for me, I noticed that she was genuinely interested to what I had to say about my culture’s background. I felt appreciated; I felt special.

I was finally dropped off in the afternoon on Martin Luther King Day. In a state of appreciation, I said my thanks to my group for everything, and we agreed to stay in touch.

I am now writing this from Ucla, only to say that I miss Joshua Tree because I felt this authentic connection with myself, which I had never before experienced at Ucla. Maybe it’s due to the school’s excessive influences which sometimes comes off as toxic to one’s true identity, I don’t know what it is. Also, I am not trying to bash on Ucla, I love this school profusely. My criticism is toward my failure to appreciate myself, and understand that I am in fact special and very happy. Camping is fun!

lose the bubble

Best part of today was accepting an offer from a friend (who is also my supervisor) to accompany her to the gym. I would have gone yesterday but I had an orthodontist appointment, which I thought, meant I was going to get some teeth extracted—luckily, the appointment is for next week. Back to topic, before taking on the offer, I considered Michelle someone who I got along with at work, but by the end of the afternoon I felt a lot safer calling her my friend.

Michelle, like myself, consider ourselves weeaboos; google it (◕‿◕✿). It’s great because I know she’s weird! Not to say that she is unapproachable but the opposite—we understand our mutual fandoms, which makes it easier for us to get along. Moreover, we went to the gym, and I will admit was fun and equally a good workout for both of us. Michelle is determined to get lean for her next Spartan Race. She told me she had just done a Spartan Race—5k obstacle course race—which kicked her butt and made her realize she was out of shape. Meanwhile, I’m training for a marathon in March. Therefore, we didn’t workout like it were some social hour-patty cake.

While working out, we ran into Michelle’s past roommate, who was quick to greet me and invite both of us to hang out later. We accepted her invitation and decided to make burgers after our workout. During the intermission, between exercising and grilling burgers, I went to my dorm and took a shower and got “Dressed”. It WAS EXCITING I didn’t think I was doing anything today but watching anime. We all met at Jackie’s apt and enjoyed eating burgers and conversing amongst each other. It was a friendly gathering. I learned so much about Michelle and Jackie, all in one afternoon. For example, I learned Jackie is a leader in the trans-pansexuality community, knows how to swing-dance, and is an ee major and Michelle is not solely my supervisor but a friend, someone I feel comfortable sharing a meal together and exercising with.

Now, the three of us have a pact to continue working out during the Winter. Moral of the story: be more willing to say yes and leave your bubble. Answering to opportunities can lead to meaningful relationships.


new year

The unequivocal, distraught year: 2016

The pivotal, learned year: 2016

Yes, 2016 was difficult and maybe one of my least graceful years, but I am only 19. I am a 19-year-old collection of achievements and failures that continues to grow. I have tenaciously grasped these failures for the sole purpose of moulding my brain to stand stronger than ever before. Like every year, my failures will bring me down, but they will also bring me up. Every failure I face is like a bone that breaks—it hurts, it heals, and it gets stronger. Unless I allow my failures to cloud my mind effortlessly, I will not improve. My achievements remind me of my failures and obstacles that brought me there, and they serve as motivation to grow. My failures are the heart-ache, wheezing, and sweat that makes a champion. And if I keep enduring “some” failures I know I’ve tried to move myself one step higher.

Never let your failures mould you to something hideous; cautiously let the mould break down so you can build yourself to something better and more beautiful.

penetrable by cold weather

It was cold

On December 25th, Greg, Gio, Kalani and I agreed to buy tickets to Six Flags Magic Mountain! How exciting, considering that meant I would ride my favorite roller coasters and because it was a spontaneous idea we agreed to embark. We left the same night to sleep over at Gio’s apartment at UCI. Gio’s apartment is an apartment, not a dorm, so yea I was a little shocked when I realized he lives with a full size kitchen and a private bathroom in his room. When we woke up the following morning we were quick to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hit the road, listening to our collective tunes. Best part of this entire day, is that we got a sweet deal, and only spent $80 for Six Flags 2017 season passes. There was some kind of deal when you bought season passes with a party of four or more. Once we got to the park we had trouble getting into the park. There was a horrible line waiting for us to check our bags with security, similar to TSA’s luggage checks at airports. Unfortunately, I was forced to make the dire decision between sacrificing my only mini-tripod at the checking station or losing another 45 minutes to return my tripod in Gio’s car. I’ll miss that tripod. Finally, we enter the park and head straight to its most arguable, best ride: X2. Unlike Greg and Kalani, Gio and I have been to Six Flags so we know what rides are good. It’s too bad sometimes these good rides causes its riders to lose their beanies, which happened to Kalani on X2—sorry Kalani. The rest of the day was superb but it got really cold. At one moment, I thought Gio had frost bite on one of his toes because his shoes got drenched on the log ride and the temperature outside dropped to low 40s by the end of our last ride. Notetoself: Wear extra clothing to Six Flags in Winter because when it gets dark the canyon breeze cooled by the winter frost is not friendly to Magic Mountain guests. We left the park after few but thrilling roller coaster rides and their long and boring lines. In the end we had an awesome time. Hopefully, next time, Ulysses will accompany us and we will pack more pb&J sandwiches.

shopping with jennifer

I went to Allsaints with my mom to buy Christmas gifts. My mom insisted to come with her to the Cabazon Outlets even though I was snoozing in bed. I wasn’t tired I was just lazy and shopping didn’t sound fun. Something about physically, shopping at a retail store makes me feel off. I don’t know if its because I’m insecure about spoiling myself in public or because I’m afraid of not finding any clothing that will satisfy my physical insecurities. Does that make sense? Anyway, my mom and I go to Allsaints, which is this cool, minimalistic, urban, fashion store. Once we enter, we’re greeted by an employee: “Hi, my name is Jennifer, can I help you with anything?” My first impression is wow that’s nice and she’s pretty; I wonder if she likes me. My mom talks with her about buying my brother shoes while I try on some flannels. Later, Jennifer follows me again and asks if I need help with any sizes. I ask her for a bigger size, which she happily obtains for me. Reader disclaimer— Jennifer has long-straight-black hair with bangs, has braces like me, and is probably 5’4, weighing close to 120 lbs. She’s also wearing a grey-oversized sweater, with black leggings and boots, which adds to her cute flare. Before my mom buys her stuff and my flannels because I left my wallet at home—plus I don’t have money—my mind assimilates 10 different scenarios I can use to approach this girl, thank her and maybe get to know her better. Plus I couldn’t help but notice her eyes kept following me. I finally decided I would talk to her and say “Hey, I just want to say I think you’re very cute and because of you I bought two flannels . . . and I know I won’t see you again but some things must be said.” I didn’t say that but goddammit I wanted to. Maybe not those exact words but anything that would probably flatter her and make me feel extremely uncomfortable. I walked out happy about what I bought, but in the end, I felt insecure about myself.

shopping sucks sometimes