My friend Laura, Co-Founder of We Design Studios, recently posted the image above on her Instagram. The caption read:
I started writing this blog on a sunny 74-degree Austin, TX day on the porch of the local organic grocery next to my studio while feeling a burst of gratitude for all that I have. I live in one of the "coolest" cities in America, through which the pulsating energy of SXSW currently runs; I have my own studio apartment that, while small, houses nothing but my essentials; I have a job that checks most of the boxes I need to feel satisfied; I have an amazing, supportive group of friends and strong network; I live in the same city as my family, which I see regularly.
This moment stood out because, as I'm writing this now, I'm coming down from a what felt like a debilitating anxiety attack caused by thoughts around what I don't have. Struggles in my personal relationships, the pressure I've been putting on myself studying for the GMAT, the comparison to others I've subjected myself to, unfortunately, too often as I inch closer to 30, I'm confident, led to the curled, gasping heap that was me yesterday.
Today, however, I woke up to another day. While feeling sore and exhausted, I awoke to a text from a friend whom I reached out to at my low yesterday. It read: "I wish you would give yourself some time to love and admire yourself."
This had me thinking today about gratitude and indulgence and the dire importance they are to our work and life.
During SXSW last week, I sat in on a panel of women product owners from company giants like Google, Lyft, Slack, and Facebook. One of the panelists said that one of the strongest pieces of advice she gives to women working in tech (where we're sorely under-represented) is to look into cognitive behavioral therapy practices. In other words, learn how to create a daily structure in your life to combat negative thoughts and beliefs and replace them with positive ones.
This complimented another challenge a friend gave me yesterday when I reached out for help: list out all of the things you like about yourself. Admittedly, this had me take a long pause at first. I consider myself a pretty confident person; however, personal experience has taught me that the ability to take risks, be extroverted, and come off like you know what you're doing is not synonymous with self-love. Needless to say, this concerned me.
Today, I want to recommit to staying gracious and indulging in self-love and self-admiration.
Too often, we (especially women) are taught that to focus on, verbalize, and celebrate our positive qualities is self-indulgence, which will make us come off as cocky, arrogant, and/or selfish (which isn't "feminine"). My feminist studies matched with my psychology degree and personal experience have shown me, however, that self-indulgence cannot be a choice in our lives if we want to reach the heights of which we are capable. We have to train our brains like an Olympic athlete trains their bodies to see the best in ourselves: form positive thought habits, repeat those habits, perfect those habits until we do them subconsciously; individuals who know they are worthy of love and belonging, without realizing it most of the time, demand what they need of their environments. They do not let life happen to them, they happen to life. I will continue to work to get there.
I recommit to practices such as keeping a gratitude journal, listing out, on the regular, the qualities I like about myself. I recommit this gratitude reframe for others, too: I will come from a place of love and compassion in that stressful job situation, or dealing with that person at work, at the DMV, or at the grocery store I can't stand; I will think of all the good that comes from them, feel how this softens my reactions to them, and miraculously see how then my whole reality changes.
I will come from a mindset of abundance - that it's ok to take breaks, to feed one's soul be it with music, friends, decedent food, and sleep, instead of holding the metaphorical whip to stay in line, rid myself of my humanity, and get things done. Abundance means that there is time and there are resources for all that we want. I will awake every day ready to balance my desire to save the world knowing that the only way for me to ultimately do so is to also savor it. I must know that I deserve it.
I say all of this knowing that I will have to recommit to self-love and self-admiration daily, hourly, if not by the minute. I know this is not an easy feat, and honestly one that I think will take a lifetime. However, I believe that this pursuit of happiness and joy - and cultivating this for others - is why we're put on this earth.
Elizabeth Gilbert in "Big Magic" mentions the idea of being "stubbornly glad" : the act of fighting tooth-and-nail for our own happiness in life, since no one else can give this to us. I wish for myself going forward to be more compassionate, less judgmental, more light, and more loving to myself and others; to fight to stay "stubbornly glad" and, I hope, to inspire that fight daily in others.
I hope for you too to find it in yourself to reach for that place inside of lightness, love, and to not be afraid of indulging in what it needs to foster. I need it, the world needs it, you need it. I hope to see you there.
Last week, I skipped on an event scheduled with some peers to discuss the 2016 election. One end of the reason to pass came from real exhaustion amidst the last few weeks of moving apartments and holiday celebrations. The other, however, from the exhaustion of the weight of the election, and believing that its outcome, in part, came from the nation's collective fear: fear that motivated people to vote for "he-who-must-not-be-named" of a changing global economy; fear of him being voted in (and its resulting free press) by his opponents. And, this is the result - the amalgamation of fear. I simply did not want to give any more thought of it - this thought made it happen.
My decision, it turns out, looped back, to a strain of thought I've given particular attention to over the last few weeks: what we think, we manifest.
2016 has been a year of serious transition. Changing jobs, changing relationships, changing living arrangements, countless job interviews, journal entires and heart-to-hearts to decide "what I was doing with my life" - move to NYC? Move to Mexico City? Travel (with money I don't currently have)? Apply to bschool this instant?
If 2016's journey convinced me of anything, its that - more than ever- we must honor to the essential quality of seeking joy, hope, and optimism for survival. It has also made me more committed to a 2017 focused on putting energy toward what I desire in my life, as opposed to spending energy on what I fear.
What does this mean?
- Envisioning and FEELING what I want - like I already have it - rather than fear of what I don't want. Do I want the perfect job? As close as possible. This means I need to write down, sit with, and FEEL like I have it already. See myself in the office setting I want, seeing the salary come in I want, have the responsibilities I want.
- Filtering out the bad: Yes, I believe in being informed and taking action on what we need to change; though like many of my fellow social justice advocates, after our initial mourning of the election results, we woke up mad. Some of us (like myself) have forced ourselves to be glad. Perhaps out of coping, I came to the conclusion that the last thing this new administration would want is someone like me - a woman, a person of color, child of Mexican immigrants - succeeding, living my life and finding joy. So, I must two-times-over put my effort to taking care of myself, finding happiness, and sticking to my goals for success. This may mean unfollowing people on social media and avoiding a certain amount of news, in hope that anything truly essential will find its way in.
- Being present & being grateful: This election showed that anything can happen in an instant. On Nov. 9, 2016, we woke up in a different country than we had been in the night before. I intend to work to be more present this year - be less on my phone, on social media, of constantly thinking what my next task to complete is rather than fully committing to the one at hand. I hope to pause every day to list that for which I'm grateful for as to feel what it is I have, as well as more deliberately use my time offline to work toward my goals.
As the world faced its new reality at the end of 2016, I signed up for a studio apartment I'm not 100% sure I'll be able to pay in a few months, I'm taking a professional sabbatical the next few months to find an opportunity that really speaks to me, among areas of uncertainty. 2016 taught me that we don't have time to wait for the good we want in our lives. We must embrace it every day as if we already have the one that we want. What we think, we manifest.
Back in July, I let my lease end and I quit my job without much of a plan. I had a vague notion I was going to move to Mexico City. Then, I traveled a bit, sat with it a bit, and thought NYC was where I needed to be. All of this time, I had planned to move back in with my parents in Austin and save on rent until my soul settled on what was next.
As most who have left their parents' home for a few years may know, there are certain not great feelings that can come with moving home, and may know this is not always the *ideal* situation for everyone. (Given I have a great relationship with my parents.) I needed a space where I could still live the adult life I've crafted for myself in Austin, yet also have the room where I could sift through my thoughts on who the next iteration of myself was going to be, without being surrounded by remnants of the past (i.e., my childhood bedroom).
Many of y'all know the one-and-only Sara Inés Calderón You know her work with women and diversity in tech in Austin, her bomb social media presence, and her overall leadership in realness and being #chingona. Well, this little lady generously gave me a room in her South Austin apartment for the last few months, supporting me with fresh-made frijoles and caldo, late night heart-to-hearts over Takis and tequila shots (for sipping, I promise), and lots of Xena reruns. I am SO, SO grateful to have such a giving and vibrant person in my life who has not only put a roof over my head in my quarter-life crisis, but has inspired me to keep striving only for the best life, and to lift others up along the way.
Tonight we had our last roomie dinner at El Mesón, since I moved into my own studio, and HAD to take a "Christmas Card" picture with the tree. LO AND BEHOLD, amidst attempts in poor lighting with my IPhone, a professional photographer, Aldo, is sitting with his camera right by the tree. He volunteered to snap this pic of us.
It was a Christmas miracle, y'all. Just is it to be blessed with so many loving people in my life. I'm definitely here to pay this generosity forward. I encourage you to do the same.
Happy Holidays, from me and Sara's Insta Christmas Card.
My political awakening occurred in the fall of 2008. It started with Obama posters reading "HOPE" hung on dorm room walls and the knowledge of several Amherst peers having taken off the semester to "organize" - a strange concept for me at the time, having not grown up discussing politics much with my Latino immigrant family - for the then senator. Over the next four years, the Amherst seminar rooms and my whip-smart peers constantly left me in awe as I learned that the consequences of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression I saw in my community growing up, and felt myself, were not our fault nor constructed in a vacuum. Cathartically, I learned this pain was attributed to political structures designed by men for men who had never heard our stories, and had no interest in learning them. I learned for the first time that the "personal is political", and a fire was lit in me to drive change for the marginalized, to unabashedly fight for what I believed in. I ran for and joined student government as a college senior; I spent my first year out of undergrad in DC, lobbying for women's, girls', and Latino civil rights; I returned to Texas to organize and register voters for Wendy Davis' gubernatorial campaign; I had the words "Profiero morir de pie que vivir arrodillada" tattooed across my ribs, inspired by it all.
Since those younger years of my 20's, I felt myself cool. The fire - that had me protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court, sit in at the Texas Capitol against restrictive abortion laws, and work for girls' nonprofits, living on food stamps, but happy - dimmed as I became more of an "adult": more emotionally and financially conservative, more determined to keep my head down, work hard and strive to make "that money". That way, I too could influence the nonprofits, politics, and causes for which I worked with the currency of power.
I now feel fooled. I feel like I've reached adulthood with a semi-pollyanna view of the world to imagine that a majority would be motived as I and so many I know are to vote in favor of equality, love, and opportunity for the disenfranchised; that privilege and greed of white men would not always eclipse the basic human rights of people of color, women, and other minorities and our overlapping identities. We are looking at a man in the world's most powerful position who has encouraged and promoted violence, misogyny, sexual assault, sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, anti-muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment, among other atrocities, who, whether his people admit it or not, will inspire a new generation that the few steps marginalized people have made forward deserve to be taken away and dragged through the mud.
It is too soon for me to say we must get up and fight. I know there must be time to grieve, to rage, to sit in confusion, and pull each other close and then push each other away when we need our space, particularly as we - minorities, women, the historically disempowered - who will be most affected by this decision figure out where our very living-breathing lives land in this.
I encourage you to take that time, to do what needs to be done to process what happened last night. I clutch to these words by Audre Lorde routinely: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is an act of self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." You do not need to have the answers now. You do not need to know what the next step is. All that I know is that, personally, that fire I have only let flicker on and off over the last few years has been reset ablaze - that my thought that I'd never work in politics again has been shattered.
I came of age in Obama's time of hope and change. I still believe in it. I believe that as a woman of color, I have the right to fight for the world to be at my feet, and the duty to inspire others to similarly fight for it. I don't have any other choice but to continue to look forward, draw strength from our ancestors who have fought off worse, and believe that, together, we'll overcome. We always have.
You are stronger than you think.