Jessa is a Catholic Filipina American attending Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, pursuing a degree in elementary instrumental music education.

Where are you from?

My comfort food is sinigang, which is a Filipino stew/soup dish. I like to have it over rice, and there are many variations on the ingredients but my favorite is beef, bok choy, potatoes, carrots, and has a very sour-sweet balance. It’s my favorite thing to have on a cold day or when I’m sick.

Home is people. All and any of my loved ones, family and friends.

Why did you choose your major?

What “sparks joy” for me is music, and seeing it make a difference in people’s lives. Having my passion influence others is the reason why I am a musician.

I look up to my middle school band director and now my peer as I became a music educator. He inspired me to be an advocate for music being a place for everyone to be themselves. He told me that I should always let my passion and optimism show, and do it shamelessly.

Why did you go to college?

I would describe myself as creative, optimistic, strong, empathetic, hard-working, loving, beautiful, extroverted, and altruistic.

Dear future self,

It’s Dec. 2020 me—don’t be afraid to take risks. I’ve struggled a long time fearing failure, but hopefully after this pandemic is over, we’ll have more opportunities to put ourselves out there and fear mediocrity over failure. : )


Veronica Anne: What did it feel like to think about and write your answers?

Jessa: I’ve always loved journaling, so it’s always fun for me to get asked questions and just talk about what’s going on in my brain, because there’s a lot up here. 

I mean, comfort food is always a good question, but that was like, “Oh!” It just put me in a good mood just thinking about good food because, you know, there’s that saying that’s like, “A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” but that’s also applicable for me. [Laughs] I think. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to reflect on yourself because it’s, like, you’re not always hyper aware of what you’re doing and who you are because you’re so focused on everyone else. And you’re seeing—you’re receiving information of everyone else. [Clears throat] Excuse me. And, like, why you might feel like you know someone else better than yourself [is] because you don’t spend much time thinking about what’s in here [points at head] and what’s in here [points at heart].

For me, I think—especially now more than ever with the quarantine—I’ve definitely spent a lot of time reflecting on who I am as a person and what my goals in life are. And so, I felt like these questions are pretty easy to answer. I think that I could write less for some and I could write more for some than I did. 

Sometimes it’s like, you know, when you’re put on the spot, like, “What type of music do you like to listen to?” Like, that’s such an easy question for me, but, like, when I’m asked—when I’m put on the spot, sometimes it terrifies me. I’m like, “I don’t know anymore,” like I don’t know what I like anymore. “What are your favorite foods?” What—like, that’s crazy. I don’t know, like, why our brains do that. I’m sure someone has an explanation for it, but I certainly don’t know. [Laughs]

But yeah, I think, if I didn’t have to answer out loud, I feel like I could think a little bit more and take more care writing every answer to the question. But I feel I’ve had a lot of these questions asked to me before, especially the middle ones about, you know, “How would you describe yourself?” “What sparks joy?” and, “Who’s someone you look up to?” Like, those are questions I love answering because, I mean, those questions are, like, this is the foundation for who I am and I have to know those coming in, too. It kind of relates to the last thing about, you know, “Why did you choose your major?” I have to reflect on those a lot, you know, what traits or what, you know, characteristics or skills and talents do I possess that makes me a right fit to teach other people and, like, decide that I’m in the best position—I’m my best person to be teaching other people and influencing other people or young people to, you know, make better decisions for their life, or to teach them such an important part of my life as a musician and so . . . Yeah, that’s why I thought these questions were great.

Veronica Anne: Thank you. You don’t have to read verbatim what you’ve written down if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, but please talk about what you did write. You could just talk about it generally.

Jessa: Yeah. Okay. I kind of got a lot for some of the questions so I’m just going to go over them generally. My comfort food—we talked about sinigang already [during the interview], but I definitely—that’s my comfort food all the time. It’s like, every time I’m sick or it’s a cold day, the taste is nostalgic—like, the smell. Everything that’s aromatic and, you know, memories are so connected to smells. Like [with] sinigang, I can remember, I can count every time I’ve been sick, and I take one sip and it cools me down, like, I feel the warmth going down my throat. It’s like—it’s such a . . . Food is such a language for me and like I said earlier, I so enjoy—some of my best friends are always the “acts of service” type of love language and they’re always like, “Let me cook for you!” and that’s such a . . . I love that because, you know, my love language is food as well. Like, my culture—a lot of it—is food. It’s how we bond and, you know, stuff like that, so it’s just nice to think about my comfort food.

Now I want some [sinigang], but it’s okay, I’m sure I can get it somehow. [Laughs]

Um, I talked about, like, home for me is people; it’s not a place, it’s always been people. You know, I have that overwhelming sense of home, hominess, when I’m with certain people—hence why people are called homies. That’s what I think, like, “You’re my homie because I feel at home with you. You’re my buddy. You’re my person.” And so, I can—every person I have that feeling with, like, I can name them off no problem and it was like those people are home to me. You know, it’s always a sense of, like, making you feel welcome and making you feel comfortable. And that can be people, like, those can be places, but they can also be people.

I definitely have had to do this exercise with, like, “What are some characteristics to describe yourself?” I hate answering this question because it’s like a kind of—part of it makes you feel conceited, and you’re like, “I don’t like talking about myself in a positive manner.” Because it makes me feel egoistic. And then another part of you is like, “I don’t want to make people think that I hate myself,” because it’s, like, I don’t want to put bad traits.

But yeah, I always try to go for the general, like, “I’m an optimistic person. I’m a strong person, a hardworking person, and very empathetic.” I’m very extroverted and I am very optimistic and altruistic. Those are traits that I think positively of myself and that, like, shine through my relationships, like, with people who I’ve become—who are my “home” people, you know. They see those things in me and that’s why I always choose these specific traits or words because it’s, like, I know that people who are my friends, or, like, who love me for me, appreciate these things in me. So, like, I shouldn’t—I had to learn how to appreciate those things myself. As much as, like, it’s hard to think about these things.

And then for my “sparks joy” and my “inspirational person,” like, they’re one and the same. And, like, affecting people with my music and being able to teach that to other people, like, the power that you possess as a musician is very unknown to a lot of people. And so, being able to teach that is such an important thing. It’s like, all of it was connected. I love having my passion. I wrote, like, “Having my passion influence others is a reason why I’m a musician.” I love when people get excited about me being excited about what I like. Because I love doing the same thing, like when people talk about what they’re passionate about. It’s such a joyous moment for them to, like, explain what’s literally their source of happiness in this life.

For my inspirational person [I answered with] my middle school band director. He’s, like, my peer now because we’re both music educators, like, I’m going to be a music educator, so I have to call him by his first name, which is weird.

But, like, he’s always instilled in me that, you know, I need to let—I need to be shameless about who I am and not fear that someone’s not going to like me or, like, it’s going to let me down in some way. I just need to take pride in who I am and know that, while everyone expects everything else of me, like, whoever it is, whatever job I’m in, if I don’t end up being a music educator (which I probably will)—but, whatever the world expects of me is different than what music expects of me. Like, me being a musician, I only have to expect the best of myself. I’m like, I don’t need to be anything for anyone. It’s just like, you know, I do it for myself, but I also can, like, do it for other people. But the only way I can do it is to be truly genuine and who I am and be honest.

And then for my future self, I just said, you know, after the pandemic is over—hopefully, I’m writing to myself in the post-pandemic world, you know—take some risks again, because I feel like I’ve been, I mean—safety is one word that we hear every day. And in some ways, you know, we still need to be safe, but in some ways, I feel like I’ve been in this kind of funk, where I haven’t really done anything for myself, or to, like, really affect other people. But ‘cause I’ve been cooped up at home, I haven’t had many opportunities to take a risk and put myself out there and do something wild, that makes me learn from some stupid mistake or like some lesson I’ll be able to teach myself. And that’s, like, that’s the best way for me to learn—just doing it. And so, sitting at home reading, doing nothing is, like, the worst way to grow in my personality because being alone, by myself, is not a good thing. I’m so extroverted, so I need—I do need other people to help me grow. But also, you know, it’s good for me; [but] as much as I love my alone time, I love being with other people more.

Yeah. And so, the way I wrote it, it kind of worked in the way of the first question being, “Where are you from?” the first two prompts, and then it’s, “Why did you come to college?” and “Why did you choose your major?” It’s like the rest of the questions all fell in together and so . . . it worked out well! I think. I think I subconsciously was able to connect all my questions, somehow, so yeah.

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