Orlando (Pt. 1)

When I moved to Orlando, there were no preconceived notions about who I was or who I was supposed to be. In the city of Magic, there was no box waiting for me. Only…

…freedom.

On August 7th, it will be a year since I have been living in Orlando, Florida. This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. I have been pushed by life’s circumstances to endure things I never thought I could endure. Everything I thought I was so sure of was called into question. All the masks fell off. All the acts stopped. And all I was left with was…

…me.

The real me. The me I had never really met before. Or maybe I have…I just tried to ignore her. All the unanswered questions about the mysteries of life. All of the doubt when asked to have faith. All of the anger. All of the sadness. All of the depression. The mental health I thought was getting better. The ignorance on important topics. The addictions. The lusts.

All of my wounds finally had the time and space to get fresh air. I can finally see them. At first, it was overwhelming to see the brokenness in myself. Now, I see the possibilities. Now, I see the importance of facing uncomfortable topics and scars in oder to bring about healing.

But not only that…

I saw who I wasn’t. I have been able to recognize what habits were mirrors of the people around me, and what was really me. Turns out, I don’t like to sound excited in my texts all of the time. Excessive exclamation marks just seem kind of fake to me. Turns out, I don’t want to be nice to every guy who gives me attention I did not ask for. Turns out, I don’t like sports, but I love live bands.

In a year’s time, the robot that was created by southern and religious cultural norms was dismantled. Now, I stare at the pieces of what was and throw away what wasn’t really me in the first place.

I am still in the middle of this journey, but in a year’s time, I began to find Juaquina. But it’s only because God led me to this city…where I knew no one…where I had no safety net…where it was just Him and I.

Orlando is the city I experienced both great loss and great gain.

I lost everything in order to find the most important thing in my world:

Me. 

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It’s Time I wrote About My Grieving Process, but…

I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to put words to what I feel, because I am scared of what those words will form. The outline they would create of the monster living inside of my nightmares, or my reality. They both seem to melt together these days.

I don’t want to talk about depression anymore. I have said that word so many times, it is starting to become a piece of my identity, and I can’t let that happen. I am me without the sadness, right?

I don’t want to describe the all encompassing fear. That ties my feet together, and puts a noose around my neck. It shackles my heart in the past, so that it cannot reach the hope for tomorrow. I can’t talk about it, because then it would be real.

Parts of me would unravel, and I’m not sure if I would ever come back together. The ocean inside of me is made of black acid, and there is a tsunami brewing under the surface. If I speak too soon, everything would come tumbling out.

I can’t speak on this, because I would morph into a burden to the unfortunate person listening to my story. Their inability to help “fix” me would result in a counterproductive response. They would search their hearts and rack their brain with what to say, and the taped together condolences they offer would only irritate me. I don’t want the perfect response, only an open heart.

I can’t write about this.

But I guess I just did.

And I still am…typing. Because there is more to say.

Like…

I’m scared I won’t ever be the same; that the girl with stars in her eyes died. Hope doesn’t live here anymore, and it’s not even allowed to step on my welcome mat outside. I have taken off my rose colored glasses and refuse to put them on again. I am different. And no one has even noticed. They talk to me as if I am the same Juaquina, but I’m not.

But I’m not. 

Today I Chose Myself Over My Job

I have been working at this same job with the same people for almost 10 months now.

Only two people bothered to learn my name, Juaquina.

I come in on my days off, I work overtime almost every single day, I work hard.

When a family member died suddenly, no one bothered to check on me. Once I returned to work after the funeral, they worked me seven days straight.

I smile at everyone, and I make sure to provide a pleasant work experience with everyone who comes into contact with me.

Yesterday, my boss told (not asked) me to cancel two very important doctor’s appointments in order to come into work on my day off. That’s right, the day I was scheduled to be off and therefore decided to care for my own being was the day he told me that I had no choice but to come into work.

I did not argue. I did not respond. I simply made a decision to choose myself over a job that would replace me within a few days if I dropped dead tomorrow. These people don’t even respect me as a human enough to learn my name (which is unique but only three syllables). They want me to be available 24/7, 365 days a year, but is that even humanly possible? It is not.

I write this, because two weeks ago I said a prayer.

God, if you don’t want me to remain here don’t let me get comfortable at this job.

Well, stuff has been hitting the fan ever since, but this was truly a moment to remember. The day my supervisor told me to put my health and well-being second. If he would have asked me to come in, if he would have asked me to reschedule my appointments, I would have said yes. But he TOLD me to put my health second. He was mistaken to think my kindness meant I did not have the capability to advocate for myself.

Today I chose myself over my job. Tomorrow, I might not even have a job.

I believe in self-care. How can I preach that to ya’ll, if I wasn’t making myself a priority? I have to stand up for what I believe. I believe in hard work. However, I believe that before one can work hard, they must make sure their cup is full. They must care for their mental and physical well-being before they can efficiently pour their dedication into anything or anyone.

So, today I chose myself over my job. Today, I heard the response to the prayer mentioned above. Today, I was reaffirmed that I was made to do something different. My answer to God’s answer is…yes. I will be an entrepreneur. I will put self-care as a priority. I will take those frightening steps that will ultimately lead to me leaving the work force, and forging my own path.

Self-love is the best love, only second to God’s love.

 

No More Begging

Submit query letter.

Wait four weeks for reply.

Receive nicely written rejection letter.

Repeat. 

Submit query letter.

Wait four weeks for reply.

Receive nicely written rejection letter.

Repeat. 

Submit query letter.

Wait four weeks for reply.

Receive nicely written rejection letter.

Repeat. 

I can’t do this anymore.

I have to break this cycle of discouragement

I’m not sure why they call creative vocations dream jobs. The process of pursuing your calling is the most challenging process a person will ever have to go through. Jumping over hurdles of rejection and low self-esteem is not for the weak of heart. It takes a certain level of strength to still believe in yourself when no one else seems to.

Well, after years of jumping hurdles and countless rejection letters, I’m done.

…with query letters that is.

I have composed a total of three books that has yet to see the light of day. Why? Because everyone who has the opportunity to read it seems to think it is not worthy of being birthed into the world. Every time I finish something and feel so proud, that confidence is brutally murdered by the slightest negative comment. And you know what I have come to realize? It’s not everyone else…

It’s me.

It’s me. I’m the problem. The only person stopping my books from seeing the light of day is me. Every time I receive a rejection letter or hear disapproval on the topics I choose to write about, I walk away from my babies (my projects). After carrying around the idea for nine months and watching it grow, I abort my efforts suddenly. I lose hope. I eventually stop looking over them and praying for them. I look for something else to nurture. As if those aborted ideas were not worth the effort. But…they are.

Each of the three books I have written is amazing. The words in those manuscripts has the potential to save a life and change the world. And you know what else? I have decided I’m no longer going to beg big name publishers to give me a chance. If they can’t see the greatness and potential in what I have written. They will see once they catch wind of it on the other side of the publishing process.

No more query letters. No more pouring my heart out to agents who only listen when you have 50000000000 followers on social media. No more setting my hopes up only to get politely rejected. No more. No more begging. No more persuading. No more proving the worth of my work.

So, what am I saying?

I’m saying,

I have decided…

…to self publish.

Keep Creating

When I was six years old, I wrote my first poem. I remember the moment very vividly. I was standing in the driveway of my family’s home, when I looked into the sky. It appeared that a storm was approaching, and I could hear the rumble of thunder in the distance. That is when these words rose up from within me:

“What’s that I hear?

A thunderstorm near

Oh my dear”

These words may not seem significant to you, but they mean the world to me. This was the birthplace of my relationship with poetry/writing.

Before I had friends. Before I knew how to communicate with my family. Even before I knew God. There was poetry. Poetry is how I process and communicate with the world around me. I would even say it was the starting point of God’s pursuit of me. When I write, I wish I could say I was the source, but I am not. The words seem to just flow from deep parts within my nephash (soul) that even I haven’t fully experienced. It’s like giving birth.

Last week, I was both humbled and deeply inspired when asked to be a featured artist for an event. I did nothing to deserve that platform. I did not strive for it. I did not ask for it. Yet, it was offered to me by people who could see my art even when I was not creating. I was blessed with the opportunity to display my short film and perform my poetry.

It felt like a dream the entire night. Even as I recited the poem I had rehearsed all week, I could not understand how I had grabbed the attention of everyone sitting in the bar. I could not believe they cared and related to the words of the piece, and I still can’t. However, God wanted to show me what He had been telling me all along.

I am a writer. 

He wants me to create. He wants me to be a storyteller. He did, in fact, place this gift inside of me. My poems are not in vain, and they do matter. They are part of my light. I always believed I was placed here to do great things, but after life knocked me down for seven years in a row, I was starting to think it was just a fantasy. But it’s not. It’s very real. I believe God let me go through the journey I have been on, because he wanted me to remain humble. He wanted to teach me that it will not happen by my strength but by His alone. Everything He promised will happen, but only because of His power. Yes, I still have to be obedient, but I don’t have to map out every detail of my life. Besides, our humanly plans never seem to work out anyways. Instead, I must always recognize that God is in control.

I did nothing to deserve that stage, but God gave it to me. I choose to believe this is only the beginning. I am a writer. I am a poetess. My words matter. I have a story inside of me that only I can tell. All I have to do is…

…keep creating.

The rest is up to God…

…and I think I’m in good hands.

I Have Something to Say

fullsizeoutput_1a17I wish I could adequately put into words the closeness I experience with God. This is my desire, not so that you will feel I am holier or try to mimic how I converse with Jesus, but so that you would be encouraged to continue on your own journey. Life will throw you so many curveballs, and these disappointments will have an impact on how you view God. They may push you to lean more fully on Him because you realize He is the only constant thing in existence, or perhaps they might lead to hard questions and difficult conversations that place a proverbial wedge between you and your creator. Whichever direction you find yourself drifting in, just know God is walking with you.

God is my best friend. I think that is a title that gets thrown around without any real weight attached to it these days, so let me be more specific. He knows me. When I don’t speak, He knows how I feel. In every situation He knows how I would best recieve love, and He gives it. He never condemns me (although He has the authority to), He never focuses on my flaws, He never dismisses my emotions. He listens, He speaks, He responds. (Maybe I’m just oppertating in the image of my father with this site. Hmm…). He is so patient with me. He is so kind. He is the perfect love I always wanted but never really believed existed. He speaks to the life inside of me, and holds my hands through every difficult situation. He is literally my best friend.

Life has been difficult. Every year feels like it comes with a new set of heavier burdens than the year prior. Rejection. Debt. Tension. Discontentment. Hopelessness. Depression. Death. Suicidal thoughts. Disappointments. The list keeps going, but the list will never be bigger than God.

All of this is a long winded-introduction to a simple conversation I had with God last night. Through revelation that could only come from God, I was empowered by this truth:

I love writing, and the world could benefit from what I have to say. 

So, I confessed that outloud to God and my empty room. Then God responded in a way that was a lot more loving than how it will read on this post.

God: Now act like it.

I honestly was beginning to question a lot. Let’s just say I was starting to sound like Solomon when he wrote Ecclesiastes…”Everything is meaningless!” I was beginning to walk away from writing and I definitely abandoned the notion that the world would ever hear the things that I have wrote. However, God reminded me who He created by having me look at all of my creative journals. I found my first book of poems I wrote when I was around six years old. Then, I began reading and watching how my writing has evolved drastically throughout the years. In this moment I realized something that may sound vain to you but was something I needed to be reminded of: I am gifted. I am a writer, and I really do love words. It’s hard work creating and growing as an artist. A dream job is far from dreamy. But I really do love writing, and God would not call me back to something for 19 years (from age 6 to 25) if He did not want to use that. Also, I must choose to believe the world would benefit from hearing what I have to say. If I don’t walk in that truth, it would feel pointless to continue writing and striving to get better. Now, that I know these things and I confess these things and I choose to believe these things, I must act like it.

So, world, listen up:

I have something to say.