Insecurity to Inspos: Getting Thru Gynecomastia & Foster Care

Insecurity to Inspos: Getting Thru Gynecomastia & Foster Care (Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)

What’s your biggest insecurity? For Adult ISH co-host Nyge Turner, it’s living with gynecomastia (aka man boobs). For co-host Merk Nguyen, it’s feeling too “Merky” for some people in her life. This “Insecure ISH” episode of Adult ISH explores all that, plus brings on YR Media’s Noel Anaya to talk about getting access to his foster care files and confronting his painful past. Be sure to also check out Noel’s new short documentary “Unadopted.” Follow all our socials @yrAdultISH.

Episode Transcript

(music plays)

Nyge: So as you know Merk, one of my favorite shows from over the last couple of years is “Insecure,” by far.

Merk: I do know that because you bring it up all the time! And please don’t shame me for what I’m about to say, but I still haven’t watched the show yet…

Nyge: Oh my gosh, see? This is why I don’t be telling you to do stuff. Because every time I tell you to do something you just be like, “Oh yeah! As soon as I find time, I’ll do it!” Then I be seeing you on Snap talking about, “I’m bored this. I’m bored that.” Why don’t you just watch what I told you to watch?

Merk: Because you tell me to watch so many things! So why don’t you actually tell me what the show’s about and I’ll move it to the top of my list?

Nyge: Alright, whatever. So basically, it’s a dope show with cameos from some of my fave rappers and whatnot, but every character’s problems fall back on their deep-rooted insecurities. And I think it sits on my mind for so long because it highlights my own. Bringing me to my overall hypothesis that everyone is obsessed with the show “Insecure” because everyone who is currently “adulting” is secretly super insecure!

Merk: Ahhh, or in our case, openly insecure because that’s what this episode’s titled. So welcome to Adult ISH, produced by YR Media, a show where we embrace all our flaws together. I’m Merk Nguyen.

Nyge: And I’m young Nyge Turner, and on this episode we’re talking all about insecure ISH. 

Merk: Yeah, we are all insecure about different things. And for me, I’m insecure about being “too much” for some people. 

Nyge: Mmm. Too much what?

Merk: Too me, too “Merk-y.” I’ve always known myself as someone who’s upbeat, and highly energetic. But I’ve been told by some people before, “Hey, you gotta tone yourself down. It’s a lot,” and that kind of stuff has gotten to me. That some didn’t like me for me.

Nyge: When did … Could you give us a situation in your life where that actually happened? Bring us into the mind of Merk.

Merk: Okay, Merk world. Well in my relationships, there was someone I went to high school with. We were both super involved with student government, but I always got this vibe that she didn’t really like me. And I didn’t know why. So it was last year, which was five years from me actually seeing her from high school or something, I saw her at a work conference last year. We had a really nice long talk but she did say, “Yeah. You were honestly too much for me back then. I didn’t know what to do with someone like you, so I just tried to avoid you.” And that hurt. It kind of carried on with me throughout other areas of my life where if I’m too energetic or too “this way” then I’m like, “No. Suppress. Don’t do that.”

Nyge: Ay, forget them!

Merk: I mean, I want to! On a good day, I know I could be like, “Yeah, I could forget you.” But there’s a lot of days where I let that fear take over me.

Nyge: I feel like no one really has it figured out though, especially when we become adults. Like we always got those narratives pushed on us like, “This is where you should be going at this age.” Or “This is where you should be going,” or “This is success.” But hopefully what we get into today will help remind you that you already are enough, Merk, and our guest is too. In the way that y’all are.

Merk: Like the Goldilocks amount. I’m just the right … (higher voice) “Not too little! Not too much. Just the right amount!” (laughs, then normal voice) That’s the Merk-yness I’m talking about.

Nyge: (laughs) Alright so today I’ll be telling you all a story about my actual deepest darkest secret for my whole life. Something that I only recently got over actually. It’s an insecurity that stopped me from having what I thought was a regular childhood, so I hope y’all can understand and even relate.

Merk: Yes, and later be joined by our coworker Noel Anaya to talk about his insecurities growing up in the broken foster care system, which he explores through his documentary, “Unadopted,” that was just released. But first, Nyge, why don’t you tell us all your secret? If you’re ready…

Nyge: Yeah, alright, here we go.

[Music Break]

Nyge: My auntie Tanya always says that whenever she pulls up at the house, she could count on seeing little me out on the front lawn, naked and watering the grass. “There’s my naked baby,” is what she yells out to me to this day. Sometimes even in our place of worship. But that all changed when I was 12. One day, I’m taking off my shirt to hop in the shower, when I notice a small lump behind my left nipple. This lump most definitely wasn’t here yesterday, so I use my index and thumb and give it a quick assessment. Underneath my skin, I feel something the size of one of those captain crunch crunch berries and it’s hard as a rock. I give it a quick squeeze and I immediately burst out into tears. 

“It’s cancer!” I tell my mom, who immediately takes me to the doctor, who says, “Well, for starters, take a sigh of relief because it’s not cancer.” 

“Well what is it?” my mom says. I’m still holding my breath.

“It’s a condition called gynecomastia. It’s actually pretty common. Seventy-percent of boys develop extra breast tissue when going through puberty and so it might look like you have the beginnings of female breasts.”

“Oh,” my mom says looking pretty relieved. But I’m like, “What!? Why is everyone being so calm about this?”

“Don’t worry son, it should go away before you are about… 22.” 

Twenty-two! I’m gonna be old and married with kids by then! What the doc doesn’t  mention is that the lump will also duplicate itself behind my right nipple. And that the lumps are going to get bigger and more noticeable like almost the size of golf balls which will stand out, especially if you’re skinny like I am. So I begin wearing baggier shirts, even though tight tees are in. And not only that, I only wear shirts with huge logos on the front so you can’t see the shape of my chest. But by the time I start talking to girls, I take it to a new level. Every time, before I leave my house, I tear a long silver strip of duct tape and wrap it around my entire chest and back, like a sports bra. Even then, I always feel like people just know. I confide in my dad and older brother. They are actually concerned. At first. But once they hear that it will eventually go away, the condition becomes a running joke. 

“Come on titty man! Run faster, titty man!” 

At first I laughed with them, ‘cause honestly, it’s a hilarious nickname, no lie. But after it gets old, it becomes painful, and it tears my self-confidence to pieces. The only way that I get through is by repeating to myself over and over, “This is temporary. Only until I’m 22.” Even with duct tape, I begin to hunch my back and try to hide my chest in public or whenever family and friends come over. But still, my dad calls me over, “Hey Nyge, come downstairs. Your uncle is here. Say hi.” 

“Hi Uncle.”

“Now take your shirt off and show ‘em.”

I feel like a circus freak. The amazing titty man. Nah, forget that! I have to do something. First, over many weeks and months, I try to massage the lumps into smaller pieces, but that doesn’t work. Then I start working out six days a week. Two hours of cardio in the morning and weights at night. I follow the strictest diet plan of chicken or fish, brown rice and whatever vegetable of the day. Hoping that my chest would fill out and no one would notice. Eventually I’m in the best shape of my life and the lumps are actually a little less noticeable. But I still hate my body. So as a last resort, I go to my dad’s toolbox. I take out the heavy duty pliers. I carefully position the jaw around the hard tissue. Three, two, one. 

Then I squeeze the pliers as hard as I can. I immediately hit the floor crying. Once I wipe my tears, I check my chest. The lumps are still intact. I give up. This is how it is going to be until I’m 22, I guess. So I get comfortable never going swimming anymore even though I love to swim. I become that “cool kid” at the pool parties who just shows up with his best fit, like I’m too good to be splashing around in a pool. Even in suits, I would never take my jacket off, no matter how hot it would be. I build a whole persona around hiding my body and it works. In high school, I’m on the basketball team, so when I have to change into my uniform I rush to the locker room early and change in the stall.  Once I hear my teammates making fun of another player who also has, you know, what they call it. B*tch tits. 

I’m surprised to learn that one of my friends, around my age, has gynecomastia. He’s never mentioned it to me and I’ve never, you know, done a close chest examination. I only find out because I hear some other friends gossiping about his “man boobs”. Apparently one hot day, they all hung out and he takes his shirt off and they see it. Just like that. It was never a thing though. He continued to take his shirt off despite jokes or snickering. I want to be like him and I try but I can’t.

Girlfriends is where it gets tricky though. Before I can even get close to a girl, I know I have to admit my darkest secret. So I’ll always do this over the phone and just be honest. And surprisingly, that conversation always goes pretty well. Turns out, they don’t really care! Or that’s what I want to believe. In my mind, I wonder if they don’t think it’s a big deal because well, I usually lead with humor and my personality before I reveal my secret. Everyone has something, right?

But behind closed doors, I start to fantasize about the future. You know, once I turn 22 and become an adult, the lumps will just pack up their bags and go. Then I can post a picture with my wife on the beach at our honeymoon. I can swim at pool parties. What if on my daily jog around my block, I can just take my shirt off like I see all my friends do without even a second thought when it gets too hot. I don’t celebrate birthdays, but I was excited about turning 22. But when the day came, when I turned the age I’ve been waiting and praying for to finally feel comfortable in my own skin, the age where I finally am supposed to start loving myself, the lumps are still there. 

There is one more option. It’s something I never thought I would do. It’s expensive, and problematic. I’ve been working part-time, saving up all my money for a Jeep Wrangler but I won’t be able to get that Jeep if I do this. Plastic surgery. I always watched that show “Botched” with my dad, about plastic surgery gone wrong. Plastic surgery seemed like it was for rich people. Rich white people, really. Well really rich, white women. It’s something that felt taboo, but I really want my body to look like what I think a man’s body is “supposed” to look like. Like what I see on TV and movies, like what everybody else looks like. I want that so much. 

So, I took my $10,000 that I had saved and for the first time in my whole life, instead of getting my dream Jeep Wrangler I drive an hour to the best plastic surgeon in Northern California. The waiting room is full of middle-aged women. And me. I’m scribbling down questions to ask my doctor before he puts my under, basically wanting to make sure I don’t die in here. Honestly I’m pretty scared. Why didn’t I just buy the Jeep? No, invest in yourself Nygel, invest in yourself. 

(operating room beeps)

After surgery, I wear a compression recovery vest for a couple weeks. Then finally, the day I’ve been waiting for. I nervously walk to the bathroom and lock the door. I take off my vest and peel off the bandages around my chest. Then I finally take a look. I feel amazing and I finally love my body. I finally love myself and I don’t know how to describe it but I finally feel whole. I start working out again after I heal. Looking at myself everyday in the mirror, flexing taking shirtless videos and putting them on my Snapchat for the first time in my life. But then I’m looking at a picture of myself, my happy self, and a new kind of self-hate starts to creep in. Why am I acting like this is some kind of accomplishment?

I’m smart, I’m not a follower, but was willing to spend $10,000 to change my body so that I would make more sense to myself when I look in the mirror. That blows my mind to this day. I get ready to go to a pool party at a friend’s house. I’m gonna take off my shirt and jump in, in front of everybody. I hop into my car, a 2006 Honda Accord and roll out, windows down. And the check engine light comes on, again.  Sometimes I still wish I could have just got that Jeep.

[Music Break]

Merk: Thanks for sharing your story with us, Nyge.

Nyge: No problemo.

Merk: It’s really great to hear you finally being able to get the surgery for yourself and how freeing that was for you. But I was also surprised to hear you mention a new kind of self-hate. Where is that coming from?

Nyge: It actually comes from writing the story. I had wrote the story and it originally ended in a place where I felt really good about my body. And then I was like, “That’s whack. Who wants to hear that?” And I sat there and thought about it more and started to feel really insecure about the story in general. Like I was even scared to send it in for any rounds of edits and I was like, “This is whack that I felt like this.” And I just got really insecure about the fact that I consider myself a free-thinker, a leader, not a follower. But I let other people’s idea of what my body should look like dictate how I proceeded with the way that I looked. And yeah, that made me feel like a follower.

Merk: Did you talk to anyone else with gynecomastia about what they did or didn’t do? 

Nyge: I’ve talked to some other people with gynecomastia who’ve gotten the surgery. But it’s just been about how happy we are that we got the surgery. (laughs) And it’s always super positive. Everybody’s like, “Yeah I’m so happy I got the surgery! I feel so much better about myself,” and “How do you feel?” And I say the same thing, then we high-five and jump up in the air and click our feet and freeze frame.

Merk: (laughs) If you met someone who’s, let’s say, younger … They came up to you and was like, “Hey, I heard this story and you have gynecomastia. I had it too.” But they’re, like, kind of on the fence about not getting surgery, what would you say to them?

Nyge: I wouldn’t tell them not to do it. Because you have to do what you have to do. And I wouldn’t want them to not get the surgery and then forever regret not getting it. Because it’s something that you’ll see once you do it but I think you have to do it. Just to even really realize it. And I’d tell them to do it but I’d tell ‘em, “After you get the surgery, you’re gonna be like, ‘Uh. Yeah, this is pretty much how life was before.’ ”

Merk: “I’m just $10,000 less than I was before.”

Nyge: Exactly, but I guess it’s an enriched life experience.

Merk: I remember last year when I saw you, you had just gotten the surgery but I didn’t know what it is for. I thought it was for like a heart condition or something.

Nyge: I never said it was a heart condition. (laughs)

Merk: Or … I don’t know! You were wearing a corset kind of thing. 

Nyge: Yeah it was like a pressure thingy. A pressure vest. 

Merk: Wow. Well thank you again for sharing with us, Nyge. So in just a little bit we’re gonna talk about a different kind of insecurity, one that affects more than 400,000 infants to young adults in the U.S. today. Right after this short break.

[Episode Break]

Nyge: With us is Noel Anaya, an artist and journalist who has been documenting his own experiences in the foster care system. He’s also the first person I sat next to when I got a desk at YR [Media].

Merk: I personally first met him at a conference in the pre-Adult ISH and social distancing days where we shared a cup of wine between a group of people. You remember that, Noel?

Noel: Yes m’aam. Third Coast Audio Festival.

Nyge: The Chicago days. But anyway, there’s a documentary he worked on with YR Media called “Unadopted” that recently aired at the Bronze Lens and FilmFreeway festivals. We’re gonna unpack that in a bit but first, here’s a clip from the start of the film.

(clip plays)

Noel: There are more than 400,00 kids in foster care across the U.S. I was one of them. I never got adopted and I’ve never really known why. This is my case file. I’m reading it to try to understand what really happened to me. I went into foster care when I was just a year old. I was separated from my brother and sister. He got shipped out to a different part of California. She wound up in Idaho.

(clip stops)

Merk: So after Nyge and I watched this documentary, we were really shocked to learn that only 1 in 10 teens actually gets adopted and put into, what the foster care system calls, a “Forever Family.” And then there’s the term “unadoptable” which is what this documentary is about. But the fact that the system used those terms on people like you when you were a kid. Like… what?

Noel: I’ve always thought that I was adoptable. I mean I still think I am, but it wasn’t until I started the documentary that I found out typically a lot of Americans are looking for younger people — babies, toddlers because they have less “baggage.” So when you hit a certain age past adolescence the appeal gets lost. They don’t want a teenager with ties to other families. It’s like, you know, everyone wants a puppy or a kitty. But no one wants that old dog or the older dog, you know?

Nyge: Right. So we learn that you didn’t grow up with your biological family, so there are a lot of holes when it comes to knowing about your past that lead to you going to your former lawyer and reading your papers in front of the water. And I was like, “Oh no! What if they fly away?” (laughs) But you get this huge stack of court records about your history. Let’s actually play another clip here where you go through those papers for the first time. 

Noel: Let’s do it.

(clips plays) 

Noel: It basically seems like they decided to put me in long-term foster care because of my mental health state. That’s what I’m getting from this. It’s like, stuff I’ve never even heard of that I was possibly diagnosed with. Domestic violence is in this. At least I can know that happened with my mom … This doesn’t even sound like me. It says Noel never asks about his brother. I always asked about him. I don’t know where this is coming from. I’m kinda done with this for today though.

(clip stops)

Nyge: So tell us what else you were feeling while looking at those papers?

Noel: That day itself was a really, uh, heavy emotional day for me. Just because I think when I grabbed those court records and started reading them at the lake … Luckily it wasn’t a windy day. We checked the weather.

All: (laugh)

Noel: ‘Cause they were like, “Are you sure you wanna film here?” And I was like, “If I’m reading something emotional, I gotta have something beautiful.” And I’m a water sign, so I was in my element. But reading it, I thought it was a lot of fake news. (laughs) I just remember reading what people thought about me. The most shocking thing I read about myself in the case file was, “Oh. We don’t need to keep him with his family because he doesn’t even care about them.” Because I actually have physical proof from text messages from officials at that time who tipped their hat towards me because of how much effort I put into my younger brother when I myself was a young person living in a different family. And I was the only person that ever visited him. And in the case file, it says that I don’t really care about him. And I just remember I was like, “Who the hell wrote this?”

Merk: And we’re gonna get more into that later, but Noel, you’ve been through multiple foster homes and shelters throughout your life and said there’s one family who really raised you, that you stayed with on and off for 15 years and you still clearly love. I know you mentioned in the past that there was a lot of that footage of them that didn’t make it into the final cut. But then that left me wondering, how come an adoption with them never happened?

Noel: They weren’t trying to adopt me because my biological family was still trying to get me. But the system was putting these, I don’t know, barricades for them. They were making up these fake terms and conditions and like the system kept denying them because they were just racist. They [my family] weren’t primarily English speakers but they weren’t white. I hate to say it.

Merk: What you just said brings us sorta to our next question. One of the things I liked is how you follow multiple stories of teens and young adults in foster care, like yourself and including a 16 year old named Sequoia. She says, “All kids are adoptable. It’s just a matter of you wanting to work with them.” I think we can all agree on that. I wanna ask, how much do you think the race of the kid or parent factors into how that plays out?

Noel: I think that it’s not necessarily race being the problem, it’s about economic status. The people that would normally adopt are normally the ones with a lot of money. And I can say that from personal experience because I went through two adoptions that didn’t work out. And they were both white families. That’s just the case. Adoption is really expensive. It could be like anywhere from $5k to $25k, which is ridiculous. It shouldn’t cost a family an arm and a leg just to get that child a God damned safe house. So it shouldn’t just be rich people who are adopting kids that just are usually Caucasians, but it should be universally accessible. You know what I’m saying?

Nyge: Definitely.

Merk: Yeah and I think another factor that matters is the culture that’s embraced in the family. ‘Cause my dad was also in the foster care system. He was 14 when my grandparents took him in. And they knew he came from Vietnam but weren’t experts on Vietnamese culture themselves. They’re two white Americans. But they were culturally sensitive and made sure my dad hung out with other Viet teens in similar situations, which I bet was really helpful for him.

Noel: I had no idea — that’s crazy. But I like to use the metaphor of a fish out of water. You’re not gonna take that fish from the aquarium and slap them in a tank. You have to slowly change the waters or that fish is gonna go in shock. And that’s what happened with me. I was getting placed in places that weren’t necessarily bad, but just the way they went about it wasn’t right. And one of the families I did almost get adopted was my sister’s adopted family. My sister got adopted right out of the system but they were … The plan was to adopt me and my young brother, but it just didn’t work out. I got taken out from the Bay Area. Little brown boy from the Bay Area, thrown into like the number three most ideal places for a conservative person to live. So I went from a blue state to a red state and there was no transition there. And same thing for the other placement. Little brown boy from the Bay, getting placed in Michigan. Michigan wasn’t so bad. It’s just the place I got placed was really white and really religious. It just didn’t make sense to me as a kid. I was a little confused. (laughs)

Merk: Culture shock for me.

Nyge: Definitely. So in the film, it’s not until the end of the doc where we’re introduced to your biological mom, who you met again at the age 14. You mention that you’ve never really talked to her about the past or foster care prior to filming this documentary. And so here we’ll play a clip of the first time you actually did. And by the way everyone, Noel’s mom replies back only in Spanish so what you hear is a voice-over.

(clip plays, part from Noel’s mom are translated to English)

Noel: If I’d never been separated from my mom, I’d still speak Spanish. Now I need a family member to translate.

Translator: He wants to know your side of the story. Why didn’t anyone help you?

Noel’s Mom: The first time they took them? It was because his dad hit me.

Noel: Were you trying to, like, change your lifestyle or yourself at that time and he didn’t want you to do anything?

Noel’s Mom: Yes.

Noel: Do you feel like I was happier with you than I was in foster care?

Noel’s Mom: With me.

Noel: Yeah. (pause) Did I ever say why did I have to go or anything like that?

Noel’s Mom: Noel? No, when he found out he told me he loved me very much and not to leave.

Noel: Did you get the help you needed to get me and Ulysses back?

Noel’s Mom: I did what the social worked told me to do. To take a parenting class for a year…

(clip stops)

Nyge: Me and you kinda talked about this when I first saw the documentary and I was asking you about how you even got her to talk about that on camera in the first place. So my first question for that clip was, what do you think made her open up in the way that she did in front of the camera?

Noel: Yeah, just to take a couple steps backwards, we thought to ourselves, “How are we going to get an adult to basically come on the record saying, ‘Yeah. I lost my kids.” Because no adult wants to admit that, right? But I remember telling her that, “Hey! I’m gonna be in the area. Can I say hi to you?” She was just kinda curious like, “Why are you in San Jose?” I don’t know why she’d ask that, I’m her son.

All: (laughs)

Noel: But anyways … She’s a very skeptical woman. I came in and I was with my director and producer and we were just talking and eating, brought out some pictures. I was like, “Yo. This is amazing. Can I shoot this?” She’s like, “You wanna shoot your baby pictures?” I’m like, “Yeah, why not?”

Nyge & Merk: (laughs)

Noel: I don’t have any HD cuts! And then I started asking her questions like, “Oh, who’s this? When was this time that you took this?” Or, “Where was I?” And then she started talking and I was like, “Hey, can I mic you up? Can I record this? This is great.” And then she’s all hesitant. She’s like, “No.” And I’m like, “What if we use a boom mic?” And I don’t think she knew what that was. (laughs) But she’s like, “Yeah, sure.” But yeah, that was kinda how I got it. I basically told her, “I’m not doing this to show that you’re a bad person. I wanna do this because we’re adults now and we have a different relationship from a child and a mother. And if you do this interview, you’d be helping millions upon millions of foster moms in the future. So your legacy to do right would be to let the people know what’s wrong in the system.”

Nyge: I’m curious. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in that conversation you had with her?

Noel: Man, I guess my origin story. Like, why I even got put into foster care because I remember I would ask just so many random people in my life — whether it was lawyers or social workers, foster parents, relatives even when I got older — why I got put into foster care. And, you know, people talk and gossip. So I never got the same story from anybody so I was like, “All of y’all are lying or at least all of y’all don’t have the inside scoop or the deets.”

Merk: Right, it’s like a big game of telephone and the subject is your life. (laughs)

Nyge: Yeah.

Noel: Right, right! I hated not being able to answer that question. And just hearing it from her, sure enough, hearing about the domestic violence … I felt really really sad and uncomfortable but also I felt like me and my mom had a breakthrough. And she was saying how the kids got taken away and my dad tried to threaten her by having his family take us. I guess for her it was really scary because my dad was part of the cartel out in Mexico. And he kept sending boys and family members to come and steal us. And there’s these redacted names [in my case file]. But I kind of did some Photoshop work. Zoom and enhance type of thing and I was like…

Nyge: Right.

Merk: (laughs)

Noel: “I’ll be a son of a gun. That’s an Anaya!” ‘Cause my mom’s last name is Guiterrez and my dad’s last name is Anaya. And I see like over a course of, maybe a few years, the Guiterrez and Anayas just battling it. And I was like, “Jesus Christ! They really were threatening my mom.” So I think the part I touched on where I say the system is racist … The system was threatening her saying, “You gotta get away from this man or your kids are gone forever.” And they didn’t even have security or cops or anything checking up on my mom that there aren’t just people lurking or whatever. So they’re not even doing their job of keeping my mother safe. ‘Cause this could’ve been avoided.

Nyge: Mmhmm.

Noel: But also, the second thing, was she was forced to learn English a little bit. She was forced to take over 24 hours of … basically [classes to get a] parental certificate. And when she presented it to the judge they’re like, “You’re too late.”

Nyge: For me, that scene where you’re having the conversation with your mom, when you go out to San Jose and you’re just talking to her, that’s where everything just kinda came full circle. And I’m back boohooing (laughs) when I was watching it. And everyone around me was like, “Oh my gosh!” I think we ran out of napkins on the table. But in that conversation, did it change the way you see her at all?

Noel: I felt like I inevitably judged her because she lost me. But that was just younger me internalizing that. Ultimately, I’m happy with the way I turned out. Even if it arose from something very tragic.

Nyge: Well thank you for sharing your story with all of us today. Again, Noel’s documentary is called “Unadopted. ” You can check out the trailer or read about his story at 

Merk: Follow him on IG @elprimernoel. And to send you off in true Adult ISH fashion… we gotta embarrass you with this clip of you reading to your mom and little sister. (laughs) Thanks again, Noel.

Noel: (laughs) Yeah no problem. Everyone loves that clip.

(audio clip plays) 

Noel: C’mon story time.

(music plays)

Noel: Love is you and me. El amor somos tu y yo. (laughs)

Noel’s Mom: (laughs)

Noel: El amor es una aventura. Love is an adventure. (laughs) I don’t even know if i’m saying that right! El amor es…

(audio clip stops)

[Music Break]

Merk: So today’s top takeaways are one: don’t be afraid to take yourself on a journey of self-exploration. Just because people or “the system” say one thing about you doesn’t mean it’s true.

Nyge: And two: make sure any steps you take for your happiness is what’s true to you, not what people told you you should be, do, or look like. You define that.

Merk: You really do. And we wanna thank you all for listening to yet another episode of Adult ISH, produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation.

Nyge: Thank yous go out to our producer Georgia Wright, Senior Producer Davey Kim,  Executive Producer Rebecca Martin, and sound engineer Galnadgee Joe-Johnson. Check out the transcript of this episode and more at And follow us on all the socials @YRadultISH to keep in touch.

Merk: We’re also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX. An independent listener-supported collective of some of the most self-assured shows in all of podcasting. Find them at

Nyge: Until next week, remember that you’re all awesome…

Merk: Whoohoo!

Nyge: Oh, and Issa Rae, you are extra awesome. I love your show. And please come on ours one day. That’d be really dope.

Merk: There it is. I knew he’d do it. (laughs)

Nyge: (laughs) Alright, bye!

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Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
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