Finding the good where it all (seems to be) is bad

DISCLAIMER: It is important that you explore treatment options that are good for you and pay attention to how it’s working for you.  I am not a clinical psychologist and am solely relating my experience with my own depression and how it’s working for me.

Let’s face it, with today’s political climate there’s been a surge of anxiety, depression and anger across the country. Depression however, is nothing new in our society – it’s something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life and at one point, depression along with its vile cousin anger almost ruined my life.

It was 2003 and I was diagnosed with PTSD related depression – stemming from traumas I experienced as a child and young adult. I had suicidal thoughts and even attempted to take my life at one point. It has been a very hard, rocky and often dark road towards recovery. While I still experience myself feeling incredibly depressed I have to say that my outlook in life is more positive these days than what it was a few years ago. What did I do?

One of the first steps I took in order to not let these crippling feelings continue to rule my life was recognize there was a problem with myself. Many people don’t know what’s happening to them and therefore don’t know they need help, and often refuse any assistance that their friends and family might offer. It’s not easy, for years I didn’t know there was something wrong with me or my extremely negative behavior. I labeled it as being “tough” and excusing as a tool that was very much needed to survive in a city like New York. There were moments of clarity though when I knew that I was not right with the world and what was in it, but those moments dissipated quickly.

However, I became fully aware of what was happening, what I was doing, what I was going through when I was exposed to a different lifestyle other than my own…I made friends with a girl who had a vastly different life than I did and she showed me that life can be different – that while you can start off in a dark place, like her mother did when she emigrated from Taiwan to the US, you can make a good life for yourself and your family – you just have to want it bad enough. Her mother had a real hard life acclimating to the new culture and a horrible experience in her relationship…but she was such a sweet lady and I wondered who she remained sweet and seemingly untainted by the bad. I never found out about her, but I found out about me – and who I am today is nowhere near who I was during my 20’s.

Still, after being exposed to her life, her family and their positive energy it took me a while to realize what was happening to me and how that was preventing me from attaining good opportunities in life – for years after meeting “Mum” I still viewed the world my angry eyes through the darkness cloak of depression. I should note that all of this; was after three years of counseling that led to me just being more angry about everything. Counseling or therapy can work for some people, so please, explore that option before anything else.

I was lost for so long and was tired of feeling like useless, unworthy, most importantly I became tired of feeling emotionally and physically heavy, but I didn’t know what to do or where to turn to, since counseling didn’t work so well for me. I turned to alcohol and made effort to escape my reality every night as I danced, drank, danced, and drank twice as much as I danced. It was a morning, after one of those crazy drinking nights that I realized that I was withering away to nothing. I realized that I was slowly achieving what I failed to that night in my apartment in the Bronx when I decided that I wasn’t worthy of love or life.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that the usual glow to my skin had become a gaudy ash tone of green, and like that day, I decided to make a call for help because my life was and is still worth something. So I did…by asking for guidance from God (or the universe, or whatever you want to call it, or prefer) and instead of going out with my friends I stood in and waited for an answer. It was the first day of being open to something good – thankfully it wasn’t the last. Years later I realized that good things start to happen when you’re open to them. Not a moment before.

With that said, I’m going to say that suffering from depression is very crippling, it’s something that many people can’t get over – and I still struggle with it, as well as struggle with (albeit brief) suicidal thoughts – but I make it a point to stay focused on what helps me move and work through the emotions as best as I can. I write down my feelings, and even make lists of things I have done so far, and the things I want to do, sort of like a pro and con list of what makes me such a great asset to life and those around me – a pros and cons list of why I love myself and why it’s so important to me for me to stay alive and emotionally balanced.

As a person who finds that staying busy and creative is a positive, I make sure that my mind is clear and active. When I go through those weeks of darkness it’s painful, not only emotionally, but also physically. Those weeks that I experience migraines, paralyzing pain throughout my body and other physical conditions that are challenging, I try my best to stay focused on the things I need to do in order to get my work completed and done by making lists and jotting down activities in my calendar. While some can classify me as a workaholic since I focus so much on work, but honestly, working on writing, film techniques and listing all the other things I need to get done for the current and next day helps me. Listing to-do’s, helps me go through the motions and move through the day, even if I don’t smile that entire day, or when I do I feel as if I’m falling apart internally enables me to feel good for working through the darkness. When I’m feeling better I revise whatever I created and give it a dab of positivity as I see fit.

Another and important thing that I do is I meditate, a lot. Meditation has helped me get a better outlook in life, clearing my mind, my heart, my soul from all the negativity and all the things that kept me incredibly angry for so long. Once that happened I began to love myself both emotionally and physically. I was also able to see the things I was capable of doing and achieving, what’s more, I was able to open myself emotionally to the world – something so many people are afraid to do because they’re afraid of being hurt. This last point is quite ironic, because I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely shut down by past experiences with being hurt. Experiencing emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse from people who were closest to me and supposed to protect me as well as repeated sexually assaulted by a former romantic partner, and the countless of failed romantic relationships in my adult life – I had my fare share of pain, which led to destructive behavior that crippled me for so long. It also led to that suicide attempt in my early 20’s.

As soon as I let go of that fear, that anger and opened myself to the world I was able to feel more freely and recognize all sorts of emotions, be them good, bad or neutral and accept them as they are happening. Because of the ability to recognize feelings I’ve been able to freely talk about my traumatic experiences with those I’ve think are able to handle such harsh and traumatic events. I’ve also been able to recognize and accept feelings of love in different areas of my life and welcome warmth and happiness with an incomparable ease. I’ve even had people say that they feel happy and calm when they’re around me – so I know I’m doing something good and what I’m doing is working, not only for me, but for those around me.

Another thing I’ve been able to develop is an honest indifferent to the negative thoughts and words of others. It is because I know what’s true in my heart and life that negativity doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s like a sense of purity that comes over me and a short term curiosity of “what would motivate them to do that?” but that doesn’t last long (no more than a day or two). But that’s more important, I don’t feel like I should go after them and make their lives miserable. It’s also important to note, that while I an indifferent to negative talk, I do not allow it in my life because it will permeate and therefore contaminate all the good I’ve accomplished these past few years.

So, how do I see the light in the dark? I am open to the good things I’ve done and plan to do. I block out the negative and meditate after I work on my list of things to do. I acknowledge every emotion I have and try, my best, with an unbiased heart and mind to understand other’s reactions to their lives when it comes to directly dealing with them, as well as realizing that we don’t have complete control of what happens to us. We can only just experience what’s going on, and try to find a solution to any given and immediate problem, but sometimes, there isn’t a solution and things just have to be ‘left alone’ just like some people should be left alone or out of our lives.

As of today, I have to say I rarely drink, so much so that one beer gives me a buzz and that’s more than enough for me and while I like to spend time with my friends, I like to do so completely sober because it allows me to fully enjoy the experience.

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Questions for an Independent (woman) Filmmaker

I’ve had several people come up to me and ask me how I’ve managed to write, direct, produce and release two short documentaries, one feature length documentary and the pilot episode for a docu-series – all without funding.

Also, people wonder if I just pretend to not have any money and continue to work and magically produce funding for each film. So, with these wonders (or questions) and others I’ve yet to mention I’m making my first entry in a while to clarify a few things; both professionally and personally. So, here we go!

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Q: How do you make your films?  

For the past few years I’ve been making my films with a Canon DSLR Rebel T3i Camera, a Panasonic audio recorder and editing footage with Sony software. The camera I’ve used it since my days as a journalist and has never failed me – well, once, because it was under the sun for too long and it over heated. But after a few days to recover it went back to working just fine. I don’t have much money to spend on making films – so I turn to technology a lot as well as try to get in touch with people at the placed I can afford to travel to. While many people may find it a bit difficult to see past the low to “sugar-string budget” of my documentaries – I hope they can see the message and story I’m trying to tell with each one of my films.

In essence, to make one of my films it’s about $1,000 on average with the resources I currently have. I try to extend each and every dollar, so I do most of the work myself. I direct, I manage camera(s), I edit, I use a free online music database under a creative commons license – I distribute, send out press releases and submit to film festivals all on my own. This takes a lot of work, but the even a single positive comment on a film is more than enough compensation for all the hard work I’ve put into one particular project. Also, the internet is a wonderful platform to distribute films, and it’s free.

Q: If you don’t have any money to keep on making films, what keeps you motivated?

Let’s face it, not everyone is made for this. While I don’t have the finances right now, I have to say that my determination and my passion for making films is what drives me; it keeps me motivated to continue with being a story teller. Why? Because while, it is somewhat about me and attaining my dreams, it’s also NOT ABOUT ME, but about the stories I tell, the people in it and the characters that represent people who have gone through hard times. My passion for making film is way bigger than the whole in my pocket. Because of this, if I feel a topic needs to be discussed or addressed in film, I’ll find a way to make that happen. Also, knowing that this process is what would be considered a “marathon” and not a “sprint” it gives me the patience to continue working slowly and surely on achieving short and long-term goals.

Q: You seem to lead the perfect life, how do you stay so positive all the time?

I don’t lead a perfect life – my life is quite complicated, the thing is I like to keep things very private…and I’m not always positive. Truth is I struggle with depression and I’m under constant stress over taking care of my father. Yes, I get to go to the beach whenever I want, but I don’t always have the time. Yes I live in a tropical island, but that doesn’t mean eternal happiness. Yes I smile all the time, but that doesn’t mean that I’m always happy. The way I deal with it all is: meditation. I have to take at least 2 hours to myself to work out and meditate right after. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be struggling with depression, the depression would take over completely and I’d be paralyzed with pain and despair. Like I mentioned before, my determination to keep moving forward and accomplish my dreams is very big – bigger than my depression and my wallet.

Q: How do you balance all your responsibilities with work?

Simple: Scheduling – there is a time and place for everything and I heavily rely on scheduling and sticking to time frames. I also have to accept days as they come.  There are days that nothing can be done about anything….where stagnation is the theme of the day. Instead of fighting the fact that I can’t accomplish a particular daily goal or get something done that dayI just go with the flow and let things take their course. If I fight, that only adds to the stress and I have enough of that already. Meditation helps so much with keeping me mentally balanced and stable and throughout the day I meditate for a few minutes if I need to. Just take a moment to breathe, acknowledge thoughts and move along. Also, having pets and spending time with them and basking in their pure unconditional love helps plenty.

Q: Are you in a relationship? Aren’t you afraid of intimidating men with your independence, intelligence and self sufficiency?

I am currently single…and NO. While so many people have advised me to tone down my “strong” characteristics, but, I’ve found that the person who is right for me will not care about my sense of independence since I’ve had to do so much for myself for so long. They’d understand me, support me and encourage me, just like I’d do for them. The key is to find a person to care and show they care in the little ways – because it’s the little things that count. So, no, I’m not afraid of intimidating anyone with any bits of my personality. Just the same way they shouldn’t feel afraid to intimidate me with any bit of theirs. If that happens, then they’re not the right one for me – or I for them.

Q: How far do you plan to ride this “filmmaking train”?

For the rest of my life and into the Oscars, BAFTA’s, Cannes, Golden Globes…and all the awards before that…

Q: How does your own experience influence in your writing and film ideas?

It influences plenty. There are many things I’ve gone through that can be found in my writing and things I’ve seen firsthand that influence the topic of documentaries I make – I have a few screenplays that have tidbits of my life, but people won’t know what they are unless they know me personally – it’s fun!

If you have any questions for me, you can send it to me via email (see side bar) or just add them to the comment section!

To stay up to date with the films I make and upcoming series subscribe to my YouTube Channel and be sure to watch Forever Boogies and Salt Water!

November Update

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Salt Water will be undergoing more edits

With all of what’s happened during the past few weeks it’s been difficult to keep myself together with my work, but here are a few things that’s happening or that are scheduled to happen this month.

  1. I moved to a new location – we’ve known that I’ve been looking for a new place to settle down and I’ve finally found one that I’m incredibly happy with.
  2. While I haven’t had much time to sit down and work, the few moments, hours I’ve had to do so I’ve realized that I’m not happy with the final cut of Salt Water and will be working on the edits once more. Once I’m incredibly happy and super satisfied with it, I’ll release it (thank God I didn’t release it already!) and submit it to film festivals, and later on upload it to my YouTube Channel.
  3. I’ve started to think of the perfect way to edit the pilot for the Silent no More docu-series. I do need a bit more footage, and do some additional recording myself – then it’s going to be perfect.
  4. There’s an upcoming surfing event (the Saturday after thanksgiving) and I’ll be covering that for the No Boundaries X Magazine – a publication that focuses on extreme sports and healthy lifestyle here in Puerto Rico.

What’s going on with the Film Festivals?

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Forced into Silence is still competing at Film Festivals! 

So, I’ve been waiting to hear from the 11 festivals I’ve submitted Forced into Silence to and while I’ve been accepted to one – and voted to win the Best Documentary award for that festival, there are other festivals that the film is still “in consideration” and others that have already rejected it. Why? Well, I don’t know, since they don’t give explanation for their decisions. I’m thinking it could be anywhere from the fact that I used Google Hangouts (because of budget restrictions) to make most of the film happen or the topic of choice of the film – again, I don’t know. However, I’m still hopeful that it makes the cut for those other festivals it’s still in consideration for. I also keep on getting invitations to submit to festivals. It’s all confusing and exciting, so I’ll keep you guys posted on that as I am informed of decisions, invites and more.

Political postings and rants

It’s been a tough couple of few weeks for me and my fellow liberals – and although I’ve never made a posting about politics, the results of an election, but I felt that this was more personal than any other election. I’ve been accused to be part of the snowflakes that are too delicate to deal with a real Presidential candidate by those in the alt-right – to which I say: “I’m too progressive to regress to segregation, religious registration and prevent a possible genocide of any kind” therefore I made a post about how I felt the political outcomes of both countries I’m directly involved with affected me personally.

Moving forward…

20160802_163946I’m putting together a group of amazing people in order to launch a podcast for those who need to hear about how to take on challenges in this world. So many people come up to me and confess to me their admiration for how I deal with issues in my life and ask for advice and that has inspired me to make a podcast to give people a new perspective as to how to see and deal with issues in their lives. I’m often told that I put things in a viewpoint that perhaps they would have never thought of – and maybe the podcast will enable me to help people that aren’t just my friends. Right now it’s an idea, so it’s going to be a while before I get that off the ground and running – still, stay tuned!

And since it’s November, happy holidays to everyone out there!

October Update

There is so much to tell about these past few months!

Let’s start with the most exciting; after working on a film for so long it was selected to be a part of its first festival, which did well because the overall rating for the snippet shared on Get Indie Wise came up to a 9.2 on their 10 score scale. I’m really excited that people want to see this documentary and voted for it. It’s truly heartwarming, humbling and overwhelming to see that while some producers might not see the value of a story, the audience does and that’s what really matters to me – to any filmmaker I know really.

Furthermore, I began filming on the docu-series Silent No More in the first episode I speak to James Landrith, who has made incredible things as a speaker and writer about that one horrific time a woman raped him. His declarations are compelling and I can’t wait for you to hear him. I also include an interview with William Murray, a theology student who is focusing his thesis on criminal behavior and how we, as a society, can change the way we educate ourselves when it comes to aggression, sexuality and religion – all of which are the three main causes of harassment and/or crime in my opinion. It’s going to be a real treat for you to see the series. The goal is to really explore the topics I mention in Forced into Silence, which because of time restrictions couldn’t really go into it – because that would have made a 10 hour film….and no one wants to sit through something like that…also that’s what series are for!

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In other (short) film news, I began….and completed shooting Ocean Therapy and changed the films name to Salt Water (<<< click to see the preview) – I thought the latter had more “oomph” and would be more poetic and direct at the same time.  Salt Water is the second installment of the environmentally themed trilogy of short documentaries that began with Forever Boogies. The short runs about 33 minutes long and features interviews and snippets of the work done by two of the most amazing people I know. Yesael Rivera and Lisandra Baez are setting out to change the world they live in and by working with children with Autism and Down Syndrome through their free clinics/lessons of body boarding, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and skateboarding.

Baez, a former physical education teacher and athletic director in Dorado was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2009. Still, she competes in may SUP events, recently winning first place in women’s division in Rincón.  Rivera, a former Olympic qualifying and Central Olympic swimmer, is coming up with some amazing proposals for coastal safety as he co-directs an innovative non-profit in the North-Central area of the island. It’s a great film filled with anecdotes, positivity, inspiration and how the ocean is providing so much for people who find themselves with so little.

In other news, I have come to work with a fun magazine called No Boundaries X Magazine; it’s a new local publication that focuses on extreme sporting, athletic development and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and environment. It’s a lot of work, but it’s enjoyable.

I have to admit, being the managing editor and social media manager for the magazine, as well as a filmmaker, caregiver and business woman…it’s satisfying, but also a lot of responsibility and at times a bit overwhelming. Wherein comes scheduling in order for me to make everything I need to make happen…well, happen. I like working at the magazine because I get to see how people are improving their lives through their efforts, and their passions are contagious.

Although I work incredibly hard, I make sure to take time for myself. To recharge, to disconnect from all the things that, while amazing, they can be stressful – so I go out to the beach and ride some waves, or take a dip or two after I cover a coastal event. This is part of making sure I don’t lose my mind, or how I usually say it ‘lose my shit’ – I have so much to do and I’ve been neglecting other things (like making diaper bags for one of my best friends and her husband because they just had her first child) – but that’s okay, because I still have time to make these things. I just have to make it fit my schedule (hahaha).

Also, if you follow me regularly, you might have noticed I took out the Patreon page for donations. Why? Well, because no one was pledging and it was annoying me – so I took it out after closing the account. I understand the economy is bad, and that’s okay.

Meet me, the Boricua

Mom 005I was born in New York City, Spanish Harlem, el barrio – in the early hours of a December morning in 1978. There had been heavy snow fall the evening/day I was born – almost a snow storm. My mother from was from Guayama, my father from Vega Alta. Went to New York to live with their parents who brought them there for better opportunities, for a better life…

My first words were in Spanglish…my first steps were taken in a post-war walk-up railroad apartment in Harlem. I learned how to go potty in New York, but I really learned how to be myself in Puerto Rico, where my parents brought me and my siblings to escape the increasing violent life in New York.

My father came down to the island first, searching for a home for his family. It wasn’t long before I arrived with my mother and two siblings to Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. I was four years old. I remember it being a few days before my birthday. I didn’t know any Spanish. The house seemed so big, with its large marquesina that lead to an open laundry room in the spacious backyard. A huge kitchen, and each of us had a room of our own – unlike the Manhattan apartment on Schomburg Plaza where I had to share a room with my older sister, no. I had my own room, with my own closet, my own door.

Soon after I was in school, with kids I didn’t know, speaking a language I didn’t understand much. I hid behind my mother every time someone approached me and asked my name. She’d answer for me. I didn’t speak much, to anyone. Until I met a boy – he was kind, he was cute and soon I was writing our names inside a heart, mine + his por siempre but…I was the “American” the girl who wasn’t from the island. I figured that as time went by, they’d come to accept me as their own…

ballerina meThen my mother took me back to New York, where I became quiet again, placed in English as Second Language (ESL) classes because my shyness was misunderstood for learning disabled. It was hell starting all over again. Still, there was something I was used to hearing; kids in school would tease me, I was too dark, too fat to be pretty, I was too Puerto Rican, with my braided pony tail, my bright colored clothes. Then some people in my family started taunting me, I was too dark for their love, I was too fat to be anything but disgusting…I was too dumb to be anybody in life. I was, as they would try to imbue; unlovable, disgusting, going to amount to nothing.

A few years later I came back. Again, I was the American – this time, because of a forced diet I was slimmer, but that didn’t last long. My Spanish was wrong, my skin was a bit more acceptable until the tropical sun began to give me the dark tanned complexion that so many white women desire. My hair was out of control. I was once again the outsider. I remember starting the second semester of the fifth grade nervous. We had to stand up and sing La Borinqueña followed by Mi Viejo San Juan those were our pledges of allegiance, our star spangled banner – It took me a month to learn the words. Once I did I was proud of myself, happy of being back in the warm weather, back to the place where I could go to the beach and swim in the ocean every day…but that day, as I was standing there, with my hand over my heart singing my little heart out – I see a boy turn around and tell me “you can sing this song, you weren’t born here, you’re an intruder” my heart broke, but I still sang. Tears running down my chubby cheeks, my frizzy hair surely smoking from the fire that was burning inside me…

That same semester, I tried out for the school choir. I was told I wasn’t ‘aesthetically pleasing” and couldn’t be a part of the choir, even though I was the strongest singer. They picked all fair skinned girls who had straight hair. One of them looked at me apologetically; she knew they were wrong to not pick me. I unregrettably felt happy when the choir didn’t do so well.

As years passed and I grew, I was teased for many things. I wasn’t La Shawn, no, I was the Americana. I was also the younger one of my siblings. The fat one. I was the one with the weird nose. I was always described as the dark-skinned, big nosed, frizzy haired, uglier and younger sister. I could hear people call me the weird one, the strange one, the girl who sneezed funny, who walked funny…the girl who talked funny. I was the one who people would sit behind so they could copy their English exams from. I was the girl who was just too fat to be seen with, but pretty enough to kiss by the water fountain that was at the volley ball court.

Deep inside, I was the Boricua, the one who wanted to make the island a better place.

Although, as time went by I made some really awesome friends, I was still mostly the me 1992outsider, the one who didn’t quite fit in. I wasn’t really Puerto Rican, because she wasn’t born in the island…didn’t matter if she grew up here. Strangers would tease me by saying “go back to New York” or tell me that my Spanish wasn’t good enough, even though I spent most of my life in the island…speaking Spanish…I had even forgotten how to speak English for a time.

Then, I graduated High School, and a year after I left to New York. Culture shock hit me like a ton of bricks. The warm sweet breeze that filled the nights of the melodies of coquies were gone. In its place were blaring sirens, stench of urine and trash, people screaming in the late night. I was home sick. For days. Months. Years even. But I had to make it, I had to be someone, I had to prove everyone wrong…right?

Then again, I was the outsider. The Puerto Rican girl. I’d speak and people were surprised, why did I sound like a white girl? Maybe it was gone because I watched too much Full House, period films, and had amazing English teachers…still I didn’t say anything, I just bowed my head and worked. I had to learn how to change my language depending on where I was living. One way during the day, another by night, I desperately wanted to fit in…until I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care if I was too fat, too dark, too white sounding, too frizzy haired, too Island-y, too anything. I just wanted to be me.

For years I lived in the shadow of what people labeled me as. Too fat, too ugly, too dark, too dumb, another statistic. It was breaking me. I didn’t feel I was worthy of love, of my dreams, of life. It took me 25 years to figure out that I didn’t have to conform to anything that anyone dictated for me to be. 25 years…a hung over morning and a silent cry for help on an unusual quiet morning in New York. That’s when I became free. When I became the Boricua I am today; the Puerto Rican who celebrates her soul with each passing day. I celebrate the soul that yearns for the ocean, but the rapid pace of the city. I celebrate the soul that loves the warmth of the sun, but also the coldness of the winter. Because that is who I am.

_MG_0155Although I am more than comfortable with who I am, in fact, I love who I am – what I look like and the color of my skin. Many people still aren’t sure what to make of me. I’m still deemed as the foreign one and urged to return to the states because I won’t be able to find work opportunities here. No matter how many things I do to show my fellow islanders that I am invested in life here, I can’t seem to be Puerto Rican enough for many people – still, I don’t care.

I was having a conversation the other day with someone and they told me not to worry, that I’d become a “Boricua” to others once I make a huge accomplishment, like win an Emmy, Golden Globe or Oscar…that I’ll be an “orgullo Boricua” when I find success outside the island, like Lin Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Gina Rodriguez, and now Monica Puig and Laurie Hernandez..but to do that, to become “Boricua” to others I’d have to leave here…because here I’d continue being the outsider that’s over qualified, that’s probably too fat to put behind the camera, much less in front of one. Even if I’ve done amazing work as a writer, director, editor. Here, I’d still have to deal with people telling me to improve my Spanish, even if it’s fluent – because it sometimes sounds funny – regardless if those few times I do sound funny, it’s because I’m thinking in two languages….

I’m urged to leave, to go somewhere else, to find success, and probably never come back because there’s no future here for people like me. Who are ambitious, smart, determined, proud (but in a quiet way) and now, finally, pretty, with amazing hair…but still a bit overweight.

Screenshot_20160705-123029For those who are still here, who are still reading, I want you to meet me, the Boricua. Because I am, a BORICUA – I grew up falling asleep to the sound of the coqui, woke up to the smell of tropical grass. I’ve spent my a-day during my childhood eating quenepas from the trees, picking mangoes, caña, fishing for sweet water shrimp and blue crabs. I’ve walked barefoot on the roads, and roller skated down the flooded streets of Vega Alta. I survived hurricane Hugo and a few others during my younger years. I kissed my first boy here in Puerto Rico.  Meet the Boricua who never gives up, even when people tell her to – because she will never be good enough. Meet the Boricua who loves her island, even if the people in it don’t love her, and often show disdain for her foreign side. Meet me, the Boricua who’s made documentaries about the people who work so hard here. Has showcased my beautiful beaches. Meet me, the Boricua who hopes to start an art school, a free clinic, and other wonderful projects here in the island. Meet me, the Boricua, who is currently struggling to make ends meet, but still has the heart to keep going – because one day, I’ll make sure that people know that I am from here, from Puerto Rico, from Vega Alta, and that I’ve loved this island – even if I often times feel like it doesn’t love me back. Just meet me, the Boricua en la luna, en las estrellas, en el mar, en el sol…Boricua en mi alma y corazón. Conóceme, La Shawn la puertorriqueña, la negra gorda que habla raro.

In my heart, I will always be Boricua…even when I don’t scream “wepa”. Meet me, the one who knows that everything she has done, does and will do began in the house, en el sector de bajura – más abajo de Machuchal en Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. The house that Hector (Paito) got and Isabel (Cuky) made a home. Meet the Boricua, who dreams about learning languages, and visiting the world. Meet the me, the Boricua, who isn’t supposed to sing La Borinqueña, but still does – the Americana who doesn’t know the words to the Star Spangled Banner and isn’t ashamed to admit it. Who’d rather sing Mi Viejo San Juan than recite the pledge of allegiance.

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