Master of My Multiverse

As a POC child growing up in America, I straddled two universes.

On one hand, I was a part of the America where being on the cheerleading squad, listening to pop, rock, or rap, and watching the latest episode of 90210 were important. On the other, I was a part of an America where being invited to be a dama in a quinceañera, listening to Banda Machos, and watching Muchachitas were equally important.

I think this is often the case for people who immigrate to this country, though I do believe that it can be a part of the lives of people whose family stretches in America for generations. The home life links you to your family’s past and culture while the professional or school life tethers you to mainstream (Anglo) America. When I was younger, this felt like a lot of work, straddling two cultures.

As a POC adult, I find myself with both feet squarely planted in white America and further away from the Latino-landia that surrounded me when I was younger. I pondered for a long time why that was. Here’s what I realized. As a young person, I was inculcated in the Latino world of my parents. My parents attended and sponsored weddings, baby showers, and quinceañeras. I participated in these activities because my parents did not hire babysitters to care for my brothers and I at home while they went out. No. We attended all of those activities. Everyone in our community did the same, it was standard. Result, I was around Spanish, food, friends, and familia.

Now, I live in a largely caucasian world. In my hometown, Latinos make up less than 5% of the population. The majority of my friends are non-Latinos and I have no extended family to lean on for Mexican-style fun. Spanish is spoken for business purposes or to converse with my family members by phone or social media. And, the only other Latina I interact with on a regular (daily) basis is my legal assistant. This means that my mom is not around daily to share the stories of our family, no friend to turn up the music when a good Banda song comes on, and no older aunt to remind me to prepare a family altar for Dia del Muerto. And I can forget about having a posada, who would I even invite?

This question stayed with me for a long while…

How do we, the Americanized children of immigrants, continue to connect to our cultures when we no longer live within our immigrant communities?

 I realized that the effort had to come from me. It was my responsibility to create opportunities for myself to connect to my culture. Here’s a list of the things that I started to do to help me reconnect:

Find organizations that can help you connect with your culture. Join a business or social organizations (check out MANA or your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) or participate in a faith-based communities (in my town, a local Catholic Church holds mass in Spanish every Sunday).

Get lost in the world of entertainment. Read books by POC authors. Find a movie or show on your favorite streaming services (bonus points if you watch it in your native language.) Play music from the artists your parents liked (this will give you a strong wave of nostalgia.)

Force yourself to cook recipes from your culture correctly. The yummy results will transport you to your past and give you a sense of appreciation for the love and work your parents put into meals.

Make it a point to visit your OG community for fun activities and events. When the covid-19 pandemic ends, my goal is to return to Garden City, KS for the 16th of September celebrations that occur annually.

Bring your culture into your own world. For example, if you are in a book club, select a book written by a POC author this way, you share your culture with your non-POC friends.

Finally, learn your native language or teach it to your children. According to a mentor I once had, older generations hesitated to teach their children the native languages because diversity was frowned upon before. My mentor recalled being punished in schools for speaking Spanish, even in a lunchroom setting. However, the tides have turned. Your kid will not be smacked with a ruler on the knuckles for speaking Spanish. Teaching yourself or your children the native language will provide a link to their past or enable them to communicate with family still in the old country. More importantly, in our increasingly multicultural country and ever-shrinking world, knowing more than one language is an asset.

What are the things you do to connect with your culture?

Are you in a relationship or relation shit?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made something evident, the trials and tribulations of life are dealt unevenly depending on your race, gender, and financial class. These trials and tribulations are made much worse if you have the wrong partner at your side. After all, relationships can be tough in the best of circumstances. But, during times of trouble a bad relationships can be taxing on your mental, emotional and even physical well-being.

If, during 2020, you questioned the value of your relationship, then 2021 is the year you should give yourself an answer. To obtain an answers to relationship questions I recommend that you do some self analysis and inventory. If you need help on how to start this process, read on…

Self analysis

Any relationship in which you are in must work for you. If the relationship feels like work, then it may not be the right relationship. But only you can determine whether you are in a relationship or a relation shit. Even your mom or best friend cannot tell you if you are in a relation shit because they do not experience it first hand.

If you want to find an answer to the title question, “are you in a relationship or relation shit”, you must ask hard questions. I propose you start with the following six questions. They have helped me in my past and current relationships. They may help you begin to find an answer to your relationship questions.

  1. Are you happy with the intimacy you share with your partner?
  2. Do you feel as strongly or stronger for your partner than you did at the beginning of the relationship?
  3. Do you trust your partner and does your partner trust you?
  4. Do you look forward to your future with your partner?
  5. Do you respect each other?
  6. Does your relationship make you feel good about yourself?

These are heavy questions, right? They are not meant to be simple yes or no questions, though they can be answered with a simple yes or no. Rather, they should be used as a springboard so you can inventory your relationship. The seventh question you should ask as a follow up to each question is “WHY?” The answers to your why’s will help you get clarity.

Do you have some answers yet? Once you have some answers, the stage is set for you to… contemplate your answers. I know. You probably expected me to tell you to ditch your relationship and enjoy the sun. No. The truth is that unless you are in a relationship where your physical life or mental health are at risk, you should think before pulling the trigger on a relationship decision.

Besides, your only choices are not just stay the same or go. In my opinion, there are three things you can do after analyzing your relationship. You can decide to “Stay”, “Stay with Changes” or “Go.”

STAY

If your relationship has shown small signs of crack and wear as a result of 2020, take a moment to recognize that we have all gone through a stressful year. It is a truth that the more time you spend with someone the more time you have to pick them apart and find something that annoys you. Hell, if you think about it long enough you could pick out things that annoy you about you. So, if during 2020 you have had some minor annoyances with your partner, relax. Minor annoyances are a part of any relationship. Stick with the relationship.

But, remember that stay does not mean stay stagnant. If you have determined that your relationship can use some tweaks, then work towards making those changes. For example, if you and your partner need more time together then romance your partner. Commit to a biweekly or weekly date night and take it upon yourself to plan a special night for you both. Ask your partner to plan the next one. If you need more cooperation from your partner at home, make that shit clear. Create a chores list and expect their cooperation. Make whatever tweaks you need to be made to keep your relationship moving in the right direction.

STAY WITH CHANGES

In the last year, you have seen more than simply slight cracks in your relationship. But, you are not exactly ready to call your relationship quits. If that is where your mindset is, remember that you can be committed to your relationship AND request that changes be made.

This situation differs from the one above because in this situation, you are required to bring your concerns to your partner. When you are leaning into this category, it is because there are significant concerns that you cannot ignore or make better with a small tweak. If you and your partner cannot work through this alone. Consider seeking joint counseling from a qualified couples’ therapist.

GO

After my six question inventory you may have determined that you do not wish to continue in this relationship. Under this scenario, you have come to the conclusion that the relationship is not worth the effort to try to make changes. And you know what, that is okay.

If this is how you are feeling then you need to do several things. First, you need to accept your decision and then keep your mouth shut. Probably not what you were expecting. But, by realizing that there is no way to repair this relationship, you are going to have to take some active steps to get out of it. If you start telling your partner about how you are leaving then, you lose the advantage of making the changes you need before they can get situated. For example, you may have to divide a joint checking account but by telling them, you give them the opportunity to remove money from the account first. See what I am saying.

Second, you need to decide how you will make the change. The reality is that your relationship may not be easy to undo. Sure, if you are simply dating and have your own respective homes the change should not be too hard. However, if you are in a marriage living in one abode, the change will require much more coordination. Planning your exit, no matter how big or small, will aid in smoothing out the transition.

Third, and this suggestion really applies more to the people in complex relationships (marriage, living together, or simply just having a child together but not living together), make sure that you have addressed the legal implications of making the changes. Legal actions such as divorce or paternity often have provisions known as “temporary” or “interlocutory” orders that help protect you in such a situation.

Fourth, seek individual counseling. Even if you are the one making the change to your relationship, you should seek individual counseling to process those emotions. Even when you know the relationship is not right, you will go through a grieving process. Working through the emotions is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.

Finally, pull the trigger. Implement your plan and execute it to completion. It will be painful and hard. Yes. There will be times when you second guess yourself. True. But, you can do it. You deserve to be in the relationship that you want. You do not have to settle for the relation shit.

How do you work through tough relationship decisions?

Breaking bad (habits)

I have been a life-long nail biter. I do not know how this habit started or why it began. But, I can remember being as young as six years old and biting my nails.

Since corona commenced, the thought of putting my fingers in my mouth creates a whole new level of anxiety. It is unfortunate that it has taken me this long to acknowledge the overall ickiness of this habit; but, I guess it’s never too late to make a positive change. This change in perspective means that I am finally enjoying pretty nail polishes and lovely hands.

Now, there are many opinions on how to break bad habits. I found several good articles while I prepared this essay that I recommend for anyone who needs proven tools. (Harvard Business Review article and Time Magazine article.) But, I cannot say that I broke my nail biting habit with much forethought.

I started getting nervous about my nail biting. At some point, I realized that the new medical reality added an extra layer of danger and disgust to my habit. Of course, this is an anxiety driven habit where it helps to keep your hands busy. So, one of the things I did during lockdown was to start painting my nails. This led to less incidents of my hands in my mouth.

I still have a ways to go before I can say that I am completely cured of my bad habit. But, I do feel that I have new tools with which I can quell this behavior.

Have you ever had to change behavior? What behavior or habit did you try to change? What worked? What didn’t?

Invest In You

2020 has been a year fraught with stress and surprises. One thing that has been helpful to me has been to focus inward.

For years, I promised myself that I would become fluent in four languages before I die. It is a bucket list goal that I have nurtured since youth. In high school, I studied French. I learned a great deal from my one year of study. In years later, I maintained my knowledge through different techniques. But, I was far from fluent.

A few years ago, my husband and I traveled to the Dominican Republic. There, we met and connected with a couple from Brazil. Although neither of them knew English, I was able to communicate with them by speaking in Spanish. And, my Spanish speaking skills somehow facilitated my ability to understand their Portuguese.

Fast forward to the pandemic lockdown in March and April; I decided to pursue an item from my bucket list. I began to learn a foreign language, Portuguese, with Duolingo.

My language practice became very important to me. I appreciated the consistency that this program has given me during these last few months. And, I am happy to finally be working towards a long-time goal. I do believe that my Portuguese-speaking skills have been aided by my prior knowledge of Spanish. Nonetheless, my progress has been substantial. I am able to comprehend a large amount of Portuguese. More importantly, I am finding great joy in my studies.

If you are interested in investing in yourself, consider the following:

Invest Money

I have paid for a Duolingo membership. I practice 10-30 minutes each day. This program gives me a solid base on which I am building daily. But, there are applications that I have already been paying for that I can now use to enhance my language skills. I am watching Portuguese movies on Netflix and other streaming services.

Invest time

As stated above, I work on my language skills about 10 to 30 minutes daily. However, there are other ways that I invest time on my new language skills. I have enjoyed watching Brazilian programs on streaming networks. When I do use a TV show or movie to “study” I do two things. I watch the same movie twice. I read it with Portuguese subtitles and English language. Then, I watch with Portugues dubbing and English subtitles.

I listen to podcasts on Apple. The programs run between nine to twenty minutes. They are great commuting material. However, it is a good idea to go back and listen to the podcast one more time. I like to stop the podcast to practice with the podcaster. It gives me another opportunity to improve.

Another way in which I invest a little time is by reading Portuguese magazines, newspapers, and websites. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily of this type of reading, once or twice per week improves my language comprehension.

Invest in People

Of course, no language skill can be complete without investing in speaking and social opportunities. After all, the purpose of acquiring a new language is to increase your ability to connect with other humans. I have had it a little easier than most in this department. One of my co-workers speaks Portuguese. As such, I am able to engage in light conversation with him.

In time, I will need to actively create more speaking opportunities for myself. At that point, I foresee scheduling coffee talks with my colleague in person. Additionally, I have a Brazilian friend that I want to engage with remotely via Zoom.

I hope you will excuse my language-laden post. But, I promise you can apply the ideas that I shared here to any goal you may have. Once you decide to invest in yourself, your next step is to decide how you will invest your time and money into this goal. And, if you need someone to brainstorm, hit me up in the comments. I would love to help you create a plan.

The truth is that you are worth investing time, money and attention. You can start today by asking yourself…

How will you invest in you?

Fearless Parenting

Since my husband and I married, I have embraced the role of my family’s chief event planner. I particularly enjoy planning family vacations for my family of three. My goals for every family vacation include the following objectives:
 
  • Exploring a place that our family has never visited;
  • (On road trips) introducing my husband and son to new audiobook; and,
  • Participating in some outdoor adventure.
 
Thanks to this formula, we have enjoyed excellent vacations and created long lasting memories. We have done activities outside of our comfort zones and that is a good thing. Life requires adventure. Without it, you spend your life in a never-ending loop of wake, work, and sleep.  
 
Many think we pursue outdoor adventures for the adrenaline rush. Personally, I seek outdoor or extreme adventures because they can teach you lessons that you carry throughout life. I force myself to be adventurous. I have been canyoneering, skydiving, rock-climbing, and white-water rafting, to name a few. These adventures, have given me insight that helped me in life. The have helped me examine problems. They have helped in my growth. I hope they can guide you too.
 
Be an active participant in your own rescue 
I sat at the front of a yellow, six-person raft. A rush of water splashed from the river. I was drenched. I thanked G-d that we had opted to rent the scuba material suits; the water was freezing. And, it was moving fast, faster than it had first appeared while we stood at the side of the river waiting to checking in.
 
Our raft began to move through some intimidating rapids. Rocks jutted from the river bed, creating the white peaked waves that pushed us downriver. Then, I heard voices yelling from the rafts ahead. Nervous energy built up across all six rafts in that excursion. A young man of approximately thirteen years had fallen out of his boat. I began to feel worried. His poor mom! I tried to recall the advice given by the river guides that morning. Point your feet down river. Swim to the boat closest to you.
 
“Come on kid. Get back into a raft. Any raft.” The river guide yelled from his position in the back of our raft. “Remember, you must be an active participant in your own rescue.”
 
Years later, those words stay with me. These words have deep implications in how I move forward in life. They imply several ideas. They are so powerful and profound that I find myself from time to time, contemplating them. In fact, they are words that I instill on my stepson. 
 
First, learn to look out for and save yourself. One of the most important things we must do as adults is look out for our own safety. This means many things. It means maintain situational awareness in your day to day life. In large crowds, keep you eyes off your phone and moving around observing everything. But, it means more than looking out in the physical world. It means, that you must be aware of your circumstances. How do you do this? Ask for help when you need it. It means be your own advocate. And, it means that you do not rely on anyone without first doing what you can for yourself.
 
And, these words translate into the career world also. when situations place us in peril we must work to protect ourselves. For example, a problem arises with a work project. You must ask your employer how to correct the problem. You could go to your boss throw your hands up in the air and say “not my fault and I don’t know what to do.” But handling different could garner better results.
 
Instead, tell your employer about the problem and provide solutions. In this manner, you are being an active participating in your own rescue. Plus, you have demonstrated great skills to your employer. You have provided insight into your strategic thinking. Moreover, you have shown initiative providing solutions not only problems to your employer. You have demonstrated an ability to be coachable or trainable. This is crucial.
 
Rely on your tools & training
 
My family first learned to rock climb at a gym in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you have never been rock climbing, know that it is hard. It requires lifting your body from the safety of the ground up onto the edge of a rock formation by a small piece of metal and some rope. Tough to wrap your mind around. But, worth it. 
For me, rock climbing helped clear my mind in a way that my many attempts at meditation have never been able to do. When I begin to ascend the side of a mountain, I cannot think of anything but the task on hand. Maybe it is because I am afraid of falling to my death. But, I prefer to think that it is because at that moment I am Zen.
 
Rock climbing has taught me that at that you have to have faith in your preparations. I learned the tools of the trade- helmet, harness, carabiners & belays plus some rope- are enough to secure your safety. But, preparations and thoughts are not enough without action. At some point, you have to get to climbing.
 
Let go & enjoy the view
 
Fifteen years ago, I decided that I wanted to experience skydiving. I have a sibling who is much more adventurous than me and he had been itching to try this adventure.
 
Skydiving is one of the more complicated of the extreme adventure activities. A beginning skydiver takes approximately eight jumps strapped to an experienced skydiver. This is a tandem jump. Thereafter, they are ready to free fall alone.
 
My brother and I were different, or so we reasoned. We could handle it the “right” way. We discovered an eight hour long class at the end of which we would do static line jumps on our own. In a static line jump, your parachute connects to the airplane. After you fall a certain number of feet, the cord connected to the plane pulls your parachute out.
 
During the eight hour class we were instructed on the mechanics of the jump. We learned on the importance of grabbing on to the wing and letting go at the right time.
 
After the training, I thought I had it all figured out. I felt ready to go. Unfortunately, once we got up and my turn came, the practice was nothing like the reality. I had no problem grabbing the wing as I had on the ground. But, I had not factored the wind speed hitting against me as the plane was flying! (I know what was I thinking.) 
 
I am a teacher’s pet by nature and want to do everything “the right way.” I wanted another chance to do it. (Truthfully? I was freaked the fuck out and I needed to wrap my head around this new information.) I sought to re-enter the plane. That was not permitted. My instructor took one look at me, shook his head no, and kicked the one foot holding me into the plane.
 
I WAS FALLING!
I was falling to the ground at such a fast speed that I could feel myself screaming but could not hear my own sounds. My nightmare scenario come to life! After five seconds, five minutes, or five hours, I cannot recall how long, my parachute finally opened. My fear dissipated. I looked around and saw the beauty of the earth without the noisy interruptions of daily life. I felt alive.
 
I have not gone skydiving since then and I probably never will again. But, I have become better at letting go both physically and emotionally thanks to that experience. I still feel the confidence of overcoming such an emotional obstacle, even if I did have to get kicked out of the plane.
 
Except for the skydiving, all outdoor adventures have included my stepson. From age six, he has participated in white water rafting and rock climbing with us. And, although not athletic or adventurous by nature, he has enjoyed the experiences. Whether he has gained as much from them as I is yet to be seen. But, I believe that my adventures have improved me. They have made me approach others differently. And in that regard, I know that his life has been impacted as well.
 
What parenting lessons have you learned from your outdoor adventures?