Filter for your thoughts?

Filter for your thoughts?

In case you haven’t noticed, being in a reflective mood is a big part of who I am as a person.

I’ll pause for the rolling of your eyes, dear reader.

Yeah, I think too much. I think too much about stuff that is hardly ground shaking anymore. I, too, suffer from that illness of wanting to make myself seem so fucking interesting. So much effort has gone into curating a self that could be deemed “fabulous” or “fascinating” by others that I now question whether it was worth it. Losing Dad last month has allowed for a sense of clarity to take over. Revisiting all of our struggles together, the endless array of pendejadas I’d craft just to piss him off. And for what? He forgot them all due to his Alzheimer’s. However, what took over was something totally real and true. Each time he smiled, I knew we were in a good place. We laughed and lived out some of the best years of our lives together with respect. It will be a gift that will keep on giving.

These many years of trying on and shedding personas were exhausting, for me and everyone around me. The irony? Going back to my OG self now makes the most sense. Take out the chaos and “big feelings” and I have a nice rack of lamb to offer the world. That’s what brought me back to Dad. With him, I discovered that life doesn’t need an excess of adornment. It needs to be tended to with care and purpose. You nurture the best part of yourself and the people you love with sun and air, not artificial light, filters, and the prism of a stranger’s validation. Why it’s taken me so long to figure that out has more to do with what I thought I wanted to “see” in myself and the world.

Born a preemie, I guess I was determined not to fade into the background since day one. I had to see what lurked outside the safety of Mom’s womb! Haha. Once I started going to school, it became apparent that I had a voice and the power to be heard. Shyness be damned, the first person I made laugh in kindergarten was a revelation! I was aware of what made me different from the other kids. In the end, my early interests would dictate much of who I would be as an adult. It happened organically thanks to the people who remain my role models, at home, school, the library that was my second home. Then, I started to doubt my own singularity.

IMG_2881When I think about our mania to be noticed today by being considered an “influencer” or a “public figure” on social media, I can’t help but marvel over how it is also doing us such harm. It’s just a setting, for crying out loud. Creating a false persona took real skill in “my day” and we could not depend on a filter to cover the flaws. To bear witness to the elements of sameness projected by people all over the world today scares the shit out of me. We seem less inclined to break free from the pack to fervently embrace this culture of uniformity. Copycat beauty is not a celebration of individuality, which contradicts a generation’s determination to eschew the context of the past. Many parrot the importance of fluidity in their lives, but they swirl around the contained space of a very specific and packed fish tank.

This concept of curating an authentic life is also just another variation of “keeping up appearances.” And whoever coined the term, “adulting” should be ashamed. We live in an era that invents so many terms and slogans to validate confusion and insecurity. Most people can’t even commit to a simple meet and greet because of their lives being so “hectic.” Yet, they still want to be praised for doing the things you’re supposed to do as an adult! Argh. But yeah, planning and taking photos of yourself at brunch and Coachella will take it out of you. This doesn’t apply only to the millennials, either.

Sigh. I’m rambling here, I know. That I’ve grappled with the same insecurity of being ignored and feeling irrelevant for so long is one of my biggest failures. The trigger point from childhood, when I stopped letting my own true self exist for fear of being labeled “different,” cannot be allowed to be pulled. Opting to create an exaggerated self with the threads of what made me different wasn’t any better, either. Dad wasn’t always enamored of my colorful self, but he admired my voracious need to read, watch films, go to the theater, and articulate what I loved about what I was watching or reading. (Except “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” He tore a companion picture book in half and threw it in the trash.)

I digress.

Dad believed in the power of words and I have found comfort and solace in recognizing that part of him. I know I won’t fade into the background anytime soon. My will to speak and write is too strong. However, the point is to allow our words to count. Empowerment and courage will forever exist in words, even in a fish tank.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 10.36.35 AMHaving the courage and will to express myself is what will get me through this next chapter without him. Nostalgia has also proven a great source of empowerment, lessons that were buried only to resurface as I contemplate my own future. For example, when I was a kid, visiting the family in Tampico, the tíos thought it would be great to get me on a horse. I was about 4 or 5. Tío Paul was so proud to see me ride. Instead, he saw me fall off, which wasn’t unusual for me. Graceful athleticism was left out of my DNA stew.

I didn’t get back on that horse. I often wonder what life would have been like if I just got back in the saddle again.  No filter, either. It speaks volumes to me today. I don’t need a horse anymore, but I do know I won’t be staying down if I fall. I’ll just dust myself off and keep on moving forward as my singular self. Witnesses welcomed, but not required.

 

Happiness is NOT a warm gun…

Happiness is NOT a warm gun…

Happiness is a warm gun (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
When I hold you in my arms (Oo-oo oh yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger (Oo-oo oh yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm (Oo-oo oh yeah)

I am crushed. I am angry. I am fearful. I am sick and tired. Words are hard to control right now. A lockdown at my alma mater, El Rancho High School, was issued when a student reportedly tweeted his plan to implement a wave of murderous violence. Conflicting reports say he was found in a classroom with a gun and/or a bomb was intended to be detonated in the stadium. However, as the day wore on, details became clearer.

The student who allegedly tweeted his desire to attack the school was only joking. Yet security protocols monitoring student activity on social media flagged words that triggered a call to the local sheriffs They mobilized, armed in riot gear, arresting the student. He wasn’t armed and the terrified student was reduced to tears, learning a tough lesson in consequence. But, it didn’t end with him. The rumor mill went into hyperdrive and another incident occurred parallel to the first. Word soon spread that other students were on campus with guns, something that has not been confirmed or denied at this time. Regardless, the damage was done and a new era was ushered into ERHS, one that will have long term effects on the school’s culture as it begins to redefine how it can keep its students and faculty safe.

My sister is an educator at ERHS. She should not have to fear for her life, nor should any of her students. The solution is NOT to arm teachers, a betrayal of their true purpose.

This epidemic of gun violence is claiming too many lives. More, it is eroding any civility and optimism for a safe and sane reality. These events should not be “the new normal” for our children.

What’s wrong with us? Why aren’t we all being proactive to stop the NRA and its supporters from killing us all with their myopic and outdated interpretation of an amendment? Why aren’t we mad at the media for turning the disenfranchised and sick into martyrs and pop culture heroes with their rage?

Why aren’t we mad at ourselves? Why aren’t we mad at generations of disconnected parenting, where too many have opted for a quick fix. Take a pill. Take 28 days. These three letters are what is wrong with you. Here, look at your iPad. Watch this movie in your car because I don’t want to talk to you. Excuses. Band aids. No solutions.

Finality exists at the end of a gun barrel. Are years of being desensitized to violence finally reaping its horrible, intractable reward? We aren’t safe anywhere and the dream of being a haven against the woes of the world is now impossible to uphold.

I am proud of my Latino heritage. I am proud to be from Pico Rivera. I am proud to have graduated from El Rancho High School. However, as an American, I am not proud how we are propagating fear, intolerance and racism as a means of creating an “Other” to fear based on religion, sexual orientation and cultural backgrounds. You can’t shame and blame other for what ails this country anymore. We ALL carry the brunt as to why things feel out of control. Indifference and apathy are just as evil as racism and hate.

I will not stand by and let this event debilitate and diminish what I still feel is a great community — and country.

People, what else do we need to have happen in this world to wake us up from the ennui of status quo? SPEAK UP! Reach out to our leaders. Do something. Please, before we turn ourselves into a paranoid state of permanent fear.