Monday, December 05, 2016

More of the Same

Much like everyone else after the elections were said and done, I followed through and processed what I needed to process in my own way. Part of that processing relit old fires given my involvement in the immigrant youth movement of the early 2000's. I asked the same of those who I'm still friends on Facebook with and folks felt the same way. For a second there, it felt like the band was getting back together. Every comment was one of inspiration, optimism, folks opening up their space to organize, and questions about next steps. Well, here in Los Angeles, a community meeting was put together last minute by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and CARECEN to provide a place for those looking for answers about what's going to happen or a space to connect with others.

I went into that meeting and space ready to see familiar faces and to listen, stand back, and see what folks had to share given the fears of uncertainty hanging in the air. A lot of that was shared at this meeting, especially from those who have family that would be directly impacted, those working with kids and youth, and allies ready to put in work. From there, words of inspiration were spoken, groups were made to identify different problems and how to go about dealing with them. Hell, even I got asked to talk about the work I did during the Dream Act campaigns and how it lead to DACA. From there, I left the meeting realizing that wasn't a space for me in the sense that I've been down this road before. I can put in work and have been for the last few years outside the immigrant rights movement. I've grown and part of me wants to put those new skills to work, but I don't know where to plug in and more importantly, should I plug back in.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016


 I gotta admit, the few times I genuinely feel good are the times when everyone else is suffering. Taking any kind of pleasure from someone else's misery is never ok in any kind of situation, but it's a raw feeling most of us have experienced. It's with age, wisdom, and maturity that we learn that it's not ok and that instead of laughing at someone, you help them. I have no doubt that this habit is rooted in some dysfunctionality that is tied to my own traumas, so I stop to reflect on it here and there. I've been going back and forth emotionally for the better part of the day because of what happened and what it means. From what I can see, the majority of folks in my circles are stunned and shocked that he won. They can't comprehend that a vile person would be this popular or that a chunk of people not only identified with him but also embraced him.

I know we live in a bubble here in California, but come on, I'm more shocked at the fact that y'all are shocked. I know we all tend to stay in our lane when it comes to the kind of folks we surround ourselves with but come on now, don't be so gullible. I'm not gonna say that I predicted he'd win, but I also didn't take him for a complete joke either. There is genuine hatred and fear by a lot of folks in this country when they think about folks like me coming up and taking their share.

Growing up undocumented forces you to see things differently, but it wasn't that experience that helped me process what happened and why it happened. No, like a lot of things in my life, it was pop-culture that helped me make the connections and see what was really going on and how we all got here, which is why I'm not surprised or devastated like most folks. And it goes without saying that while I may be an immigrant and Latino, I'm still a man and that makes things a lot easier for me because of the way society works. I'll get by one way or another. It also doesn't mean I don't feel some kind of way about it either.

Like a lotta other folk out there who are Dacamented, my first thoughts were of my work permit and what is going to happen. Is he going to end the DACA program? If he does, what's going to happen to everyone who is on the government's radar? Are we going to be wrangled up and deported because we were part of a work program? Will we get to keep our current status or better yet, transition into something more permanent? The obvious answers that yeah, chances are DACA is going to get cut off and that we'll be exposed to our worst fears.

The reactions I'm seeing from those in the same boat as me doesn't instill any kind of hope, with the exception of those who organize and are active in social justice spaces. I saw messages from reporters over social media asking those who have DACA for interviews. I did one of those interviews while I was lifted, so while I can't say that it'll make it on air, it did help me process a bit. I reflected on the last time I felt this kind of uncertainty back in 2010 when the Federal Dream Act didn't pass. It's a sickening feeling that can easily overwhelm you if you are not in the right frame of mind or lack support networks. It also goes without saying that in the last six years, I've made strides and matured to a point where I'm able to deal with feelings and situations like these in a healthy and positive way.

It's a battle to stay in that kind of mindset when depression is comforting, especially when others are depending on you. So like everyone else, I'll do me and process this new reality. I'll binge eat, read some comics, go on a bike ride, and play some video games. I'll do those things knowing that I'll be preparing for the fights that are coming and to support those who'll need it. This is not my country nor do I have any delusions about being accepted and assimilated. I've invested the better part of my life in this country and for me to leave, by choice, would be letting down everyone else who needs support and calls this country home.

Tomorrow is another day and when you are ready to fight, hit me up and I'll be there to support.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Doing Too Much At Once

You ever over extend yourself? You know, you commit yourself to do different things for different folks? Hell, some of y'all might be working more than one part-time job on top of volunteering in another space. For what seems to be the 3rd or 4th time this year, I have overextended myself to the point of it affecting the quality of my work and fucking me up personally. I get stressed the hell out and start losing track of things. I eat poorly and on the go whenever I can get to it. I spend more time commuting from one place to another because I'm on public transportation. I get home exhausted with more work waiting for me, but at that point, all I wanna do is turn off my brain, take a shower, and catch up on my stories. Instead, I find myself wrapping up work and preparing for the next day. Any other day, I would actually be excited everything that is going on, but as of late, it's just getting to the point where I'm questioning what I'm doing and my different commitments. For the better part, those extra commitments turn into side gigs that supplement my income since I work two part-time jobs. Then I have other days in which I'm going from meeting to meeting to meeting planning for more meetings for an event that is a month away. All that sitting is making my back hurt. I find myself eating at my desk while watching youtube videos for my lunch break. Then all the planning and meetings pay off. The event is successful, goals were met, everyone had a good time. I had a good time, I met some great folks, and I made some extra cash.

Then it all starts over again, which is where I currently find myself. Again. I question why I said yes to what I'm doing and just push myself forward to get it done. I don't have a problem saying no, but I also don't like turning down opportunities where I can be a ham, get some work done, and get reach new folks on the numerous issues that I work on. But the fact of the matter is that I've overextended myself to the point of letting it affect all of my different responsibilities. It affects me physically and mentally because I'm just drained all the time, mentally more than anything. It just gets to a point where I'm running on automatic and not really thinking and planning further ahead. I just go one from thing to another. But see, that's the other thing, if I said no and took on fewer responsibilities, what would I do with my extra time other than being a couch potato? I don't like that feeling of wasting time unless I'm reading, watching movies, playing video games or turning off my brain and just enjoying myself.

I love being in so many different spaces and wearing different hats, it's who I am. "A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one." Part of the reason I feel as drained as I do is because of a lot of these extra responsibilities continue pushing me to grow. I'm the connector between all these different spaces, which is something I have being doing since I came to this country and became the only English speaker in my home. I nerd out in being able to talk shop in a multitude of different interest and connecting with others who are on the same tip. The intersectionalities of being able to connect something like Pokemon to a movie like Colors. Wachu know about team Rocket?

Then there's that part of me that feels I have to everything I can because I can. Because I'm that woke that not acting in a positive way would be a waste of my being and a disservice to everyone who has ever spotted me a meal, a place to sleep, money etc. That guilt is real and everyone deals with it in their own way, but that's why we have alcohol to balance things out. I'll take an old-fashioned please. On the real though, it just bums me out when I get overwhelmed and stressed because I know I'm fucking up and letting folks down. I try and put in more time to try and make up for lost time, but I'm just tired and ready to go to sleepy by 9pm because I gotta wake up at 7am to do it all over again. Sigh, at the end of the day, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm young, abled bodied, and lucky to be in the spaces I'm and working with the folks that I know. I just need to improve my time management skills, eat right, buy a car cause I'm done with public transportation, and keep putting in work. I just gotta dig that much deeper to find ganas.          


Monday, August 08, 2016

BlindSpot: A "DREAMER" in a Main Stream Comic Book

When I first read about comic book writer Charles Soule introducing a new character, who is also an undocumented immigrant, to his Daredevil run, I basically flipped my script. At the time of the announcement, there weren't any details available on the new character or the DD book aside from this being a new partnership that will take place after the comic universe reboot brought on by Secret Wars. I waited for more details and for the eventual release of the book, which is currently at issue 9 as of me writing this. After that, I also waited for the first arc to wrap up before I wrote anything about it, so join me in this rare opportunity in which I can nerd out on comic books, identity, immigration, politics, representation, and what it means for a "dreamer" to be featured in a mainstream stream comic book.

Before you continue reading, there is some housekeeping I have to mention right off the top. This will help if you've never come across my blog before or if you need some points of reference on where I stand on the identity politics of "dreamers", my love for comic books, and past blog post in which I've used comic book characters to interpret my own life experiences. For the purpose of this post, I'll be doing something I normally wouldn't do, which is to refer to said character as a 'dreamer', mostly because this is the archetype being used and how the writer is describing him. The politics of that identity will be left out for the purpose of this post. I'll also be hyperlinking past post throughout this one, rather than listing everything as a list. The "dreamer" identity can be complicated for a lot of reasons, but for me, it is now a reminder of what was. That being said, let's nerd the fuck out yo.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fear of Missing out on Nostalgia

In explaining something about myself and how I grew up to someone recently I came to a realization, you don't really know you grew up poor until you get older and you realize how poor you really were. This specific train of thought goes beyond finances and into how I grew up missing out on experiences that seem to be common for almost everyone else. Thinking back on those years, I realize that I grew up isolated from others and bereft of almost all adolescent experiences that help and individual grow and mature. Growing up, I picked up survival mechanisms quickly both from experience and from seeing others and what would happen to them. One those techniques was being able to bullshit myself through conversations with others, basically faking it. Best analogy I can give to this, which is kinda lame but on point, is a Friends episode in which Joey buys a single encyclopedia book because he's always fake smiling and nodding in group conversations cause he doesn't know what they're talking about. That's me, except with life.

At this point in my life, I don't find myself doing that unless I'm just humoring someone so they can get through their story and I can change the subject to something a lot more interesting, but I still pick up on those cues here and there. So many conversations are based on assumptions on the other persons personal experiences in that yours are the same as theirs and vice versa. That's why I've never liked making small talk in social settings. I'm good at it, but it's in one ear and out the other unless I find a genuine connection. I'm also not bogged down by the nostalgic version of 'fear of missing out' when talking to folks either, partly because I've taken ownership of my experiences and who I am as an individual. External validation of others is not something I seek or long for, but it is nice coming from those that I respect and admire.

At the same time though, I'd be lying if I didn't stop to day dream about what it would have been like to have grown up with a sense of normalcy, routine, and adventure that didn't involve working to make ends meat or enthralling myself in solitary forms of entertainment like comics, television, anime, video games etc. It wasn't until my early 20s and once I stopped living at home that I tried to make up for everything I wish I could have done when I was a teen. From going to back yard shows to skating around town and eating dollar chicken sandwiches from fast food joints. It's funny how the older the I get, the more I think about how I grew up, which in turn helped shape who I am today. I have the answers now that I didn't have back or weren't explained to me for one reason or another, and I get a mix of frustration, anger, resentment, and relief.

So much was tied to just being poor and moving around on a regular basis that there was no way I would be out and about in the middle of the night on adventures. I had no friends and no sense of where to go, so I just stayed home, which brings me to the present. I find myself going on nostalgia trips more so out of this sense of trying to reclaim a sense of 'fear of missing out' from things that happened during my adolescence and get caught up. A lot of that is tied to my consumption preferences of pop culture and entertainment. Jotting things here and there to look them up later on google. One thing usually leads to another and before I know it, I'm down in a rabbit hole bookmarking pages and putting books/movies in my amazon wish list so I can follow up on them later.

It's a lot of fun sometimes going down those rabbit holes because as I search for one thing, I end up finding references to others things, which spur me on to keep going down further and deeper. Out of everything I have take an interest in my life, they all have some unfinished lineage I'm tracing to figure out how one thing lead to another and its current interpretation of it. To this this, one of the lineages I've been able to follow through to the end, almost, is the creation of the Batman character, the Joker. To know that the origins of that character are found in classical literature, which I have but haven't read yet, means that there's no telling where these rabbits hole lead. This is one of those habits that will be with me for the entirety of my life. A kind of fear on missing out on nostalgia and history.      

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Reflections at 32

The older I get, the more I'm making up for my youth. I'm at a point in my life in which I can comfortably live in a growing time bubble of my choosing. I forgot who I said this to and the exact wording, but to paraphrase myself: part of being an adult is having the ability of being able to buy anything you couldn't when you are young. The nostalgia affect is real and I fall for it every other time, like a moth to a flame. Which is not to say I haven't been expanding my boundaries and experiencing new things when I can, but the majority of the time, I'm trying to catch up on something I missed or just relive something from my youth. Every once in a while, I find a combination of the two and I nerd out. At the same time, I've also taken advantage of my resources and have been doing a bit of traveling that has lead to a lot of personal growth and expansion of my internal universe.

As much fun as I've been having, I'd like to think that I've put in twice as much work, both on the financial side to be able to sustain my comfort level and at the social level, which I consider anything in which I'm helping others grow, volunteering, and just generally helping others if I can. As such, the passage of time feels faster than it has previously in my life and I worry about that sometimes. The majority of my time is invested in work that provides finances and/or volunteer, after that, all I do is melt on the couch with various forms of entertainment to distract me. Before I know it, the week is over and the routine starts all over again. I like it.

Like everyone else, I also find myself pondering existentially at the mysteries of life and if I'm making the best use of my time and resources. I'm grateful for the maturity I've been staking up like experience points over the years because it has made navigating life less confusing and a bit easier. If I had this level of maturity 10 years ago, there's no telling where I would have ended up, but that's also the point. The experiences I've been through have accumulated and lead me to where I am today. And like everyone else, I have good days and bad days, but I keep on keeping on. I can't change systems, but I can make positive changes in individuals I meet and that I care for. That is something I have kept practicing for as long as I have been active in social justice movements. It's not a solution, but it's what works for me.

I'm looking forward to what 32 will bring and who I will get to share it with.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reflections from Traveling: New York

Thing about traveling for me is that it has and always will be a privilege that snaps back at you like a rubber band. NY is a city I have always wanted to visit and the fact that I finally got to go and have a magnificent time there makes the sting of the snap that much more noticeable. A trip like this leads to a lot of reflecting in almost every aspect of my life and in the work I do within social justice. I don't feel guilty for taking this trip because I busted my ass to make it happen, but it also goes without saying that I'm fortunate enough to have a job that gives me paid vacation, something I still struggle to grasp. I have DACA, which makes traveling that much easier than in the past when I used my Mexican Passport, I can splurge on food or things knowing that I won't have to resort to exclusively eating cereal for the next few weeks, and that I have a home waiting for me when I get back. Every time I leave my neighborhood for a few days I come back appreciating it more so than before.

Out of everything that I experienced in this last trip, my latest realization came to me over diner, and it's that I'm at a point in my life in which 'undocumented' is now brought up in conversations as them and not I. I've noticed this at work, among friends, and in other spaces that have ties to social justice work. I've had DACA for more than three years now and I stopped being active in immigrant rights spaces far longer than that. It makes sense that the further I got from those kind of spaces, the less frequency the issue of my immigration status would come up. I suppose it's also a sign of the times as well in that being undocumented is still a critical issue in this country, there are those like me who are able to transcend that and carry on an average life style that completely overshadows my status as an immigrant.

I can call this specific situation a bunch of different things, but at the end of the day, I've shifted to a place where my immigration status doesn't hinder any aspects of my day to day life anymore. Obviously I can still lose my work permit, get deported, lose my job, my housing etc, but even those situations are a bit on the extreme end given the normalcy of my everyday routine. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a fear of having everything I've worked for taken away from me, but even then, I know I would be able to bounce back on my feet and carry on some how. This trip to NY helped me step back a bit and look from the outside in as to who and how I am.

My attention has been on other matters, so I never noticed this change and with good reason, its been a natural progression and growth of my identity. From being more responsible to my emotional and metal maturity, I'm the same person I've always been, just an improved version of the previous ones. Being quasi undocumented has also changed those dynamics for the better in that things got easier and more doors opened up. Growth and change are a funny business, but they're both experiences I've enjoyed basking in these last few years. Moving forward, I'll have to be mindful in how I talk about others who may be undocumented and/or immigrants because I don't want to get to a place in which I 'other' individuals who I share a unique experience with. No, that's not the kind of person I wanna be.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On Writing Less Frequently & Changing Focus

When I first started blogging and sharing, I thought to myself that I would never run out of things to write about if I focused on what is going on in my life. That logic worked for a good while and I came here to write out and share whatever I was going through. Much like any diary, you look back on things and reflect to remember where you were and how much progress and growth you've made as an individual since then. Being undocumented, now DACAmented, it took on another layer of being ope about what I was going through because I knew other would relate. Fact of the matter is, I just don't see a point in repeating myself when it comes to writing here.

The last big thing I cranked out was my 10 year anniversary and that took me more than a year to finish, but I like reflecting on things like that. And it's not like my life has gotten a lot more boring these last few years, on the contrary, I've been more active than I've ever been before, but I don't feel the need to write and share what is on my mind like I use to. Partly because I've already done it and because it helped me grow as an individual, so those issues aren't things that will throw me for a loop or trigger anything unhealthy. I could also write endlessly about politics and issues going on, but the number of think pieces on the most mundane and trivial things is too damn high. Nothing but a bunch of click bait is what it is.

Not only that, I'm no one of high or low profile to say this person is fucking up cause of this or that person is fucking up cause of that and will the real slim shady please stand up. Not to say that I don't enjoy good gossip here and there though. There is enough of that around the net and it comes in waves, I'd rather be looking at gifs on tumblr. The other thing you have to take into account is that I do communications for a living now. Yeah, I'm surprised things worked out that way, but I enjoy the work I do and where I'm at. Sure, I'll whine about my commute to and from work on twitter and Facebook, but show me a person who doesn't and I will gladly shut up. So the last thing I wanna do when I get home is spend more time in front of my computer.

Along the same lines, I can't be as open and as public with my comments and critics as I use to. There's a few reasons for that, but the primary one being 'office politics,' as in I have a pretty good network of folks and screwing up that up would mean the down fall my being able to have steady employment or work with others when projects/events come around. This is a dramatic change for me because I was the opposite of that for a long time and whether I like it not, I have to place nice with the other kids. I had a similar experience like this in the 3rd grade haha, but I digress in that I just plain don't want people knowing my business anymore. Least not as much as when I first got on social media and posted existential shower thoughts about life for attention. No, while I do get urges to post content like that sometimes, I'm pretty good about not going through with it, minus a slip here and there.

I pretty much have my head on straight these days and I'm pretty good about keeping busy with social justice stuff or catching up on personal things like reading. Sadly, that means less posting about that kind of stuff on here, but for sure not stopping indefinitely though. Nor does this mean that I'm going the creative writing route and I'm gonna start posting poems and short stories on here either. I have some stuff lined up already for the mean time that will help set the precedent I'll be taking in future post. While I don't have much to share anymore in terms of what it's like to live as an undocumented immigrant in this country, I got a whole bunch of other stuff I've been wanting to get into that has more of a pop-culture focus to it, but through my unique lens of course. Least before all those clit bait sites catch on to it and turn it to dribble. Point is, while I won't be writing as much as I use, I'll still be writing none the less.  


Thursday, February 11, 2016

On Paying Taxes

I've written about the chains that bind being an immigrant to money. You can read that here. It's nothing new, nor is this an attempt at a think piece that'll go up on some click bait site like the Huffington Post, only to be blindly shared on social media for a few seconds. No, like the majority of my writing here, this is me thinking out loud. Ever since I started paying taxes, both through an ITIN and currently through DACA, it has always bugged me that not only does the government take their cut from my checks automatically, but I also end up paying a few more thousand dollars more every year because I have no deductibles to claim. It makes me feel as if I'm just working to pay for the privilege to pay.

And that's when it hit me, everything I pay through state and federal taxes is the literal monetary value this country puts on me and my immigration status. Don't let anyone tell you that you can put a number to the cost of a life because bother, lemme tell you, I put a a few numbers together every year to be able to live comfortably. I've gotten out of the habit of justifying my life style by comparing it to someone else's and saying that at least I'm not them, you know. That whole, 'things could be worse'  and "at least I'm not them" expression. The system doesn't give me any incentives to play by the rules, rather, I get taxed even harder when I do.

It would be so easy to just flat out not pay any kind of taxes or go to a crooked notary and lie to get all kinds of money back, but that would kill any and all future chances of being a permanent resident. I mean really, that's the only reason I have for flying straight and paying up, for the hope that things will get better and I won't have to be on DACA the rest of my life. Bu you know what, putting that kind of fear into someone will only make them work hard enough to not get caught and just go through the motions. Still, at the end of the day, I have nothing to complain about given my current life style. I just like to complain and moan about the financial responsibilities I have to this country. I work semi-hard for that money, I should be able to frivolously spend it as I see fit, but that's not how things work. That's not how they work at all.      

Sunday, January 17, 2016

10 Years of Blogging as an Undocumented Immigrant (Long Read)

Circa Dec 2015
Ten years of blogging about my experiences being an undocumented immigrant in the United States. Hard to believe I’ve stuck with this endeavor for so long when the idea for starting it was simple: share my experiences as an undocumented immigrant living in the US. I initially got the idea from the blog ‘stuff white people like,’ which explained stuff white people like. With that simple idea, I figured I could do the same , but with my experiences as undocumented. Over the years, so many things have changed and I’ve changed along with them.

From creating a myspace account in 2004 to now working as a communications person at a non-profit organization. I’ve been able to prosper due to the fact that I have been growing with technology and staying on top of it the best I can, but I’ve also had the support of a lot of folks behind me at various points in my life. From opening up their floors for me to sleep on to treating me to lunch and a beer here and there. I wasn’t always the best house guest and I know I over stayed my welcome a couple of times, but I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for all those folks who helped me out along the way. To them, I say thank you.