I am the Sun

Every year I get the Birthday Blues.  It never fails.  I know some people get so hype and litty every year when their birthdays roll around, but me I get the birthday blues.  It’s a combination of anxiety and nervousness of having everyone LOOKING at me and engaging with me that gives me a dread that I can only describe as such, the ol’ Birthday Blues.

Over the years I think I narrowed the reason why birthdays get me down: a new year for me always marks looking back on the year before and constantly comparing myself to, myself.  What did I do? What did I accomplish?  Am I where I wanted to be? Did I achieve the goals I set out for myself last year?  Normally, the answer is no or not quite.  And every year, like clock work, I have to re-set those goals, re-evaluate why I didn’t get to where I wanted to be and come face to face with some failures–eesh even writing that sentence gave me anxiety…  Then, just like I always do, I set some new goals, re-set some old ones and try to remind myself I’m not a complete waste of space for having to re-set the old ones I didn’t accomplish.  A constant comparison with myself and everyone else who has ever turned my age before me.  So yeah, I guess it’s safe to say I get the Birthday Blues.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays, my best friends’, my family members’, my partner’s-I love to celebrate them.  Even preparing for mine is fun it’s just THAT day, the day of reckoning or celebration (as some may call it), the day of the party, the actual day when all the attention is on me, is overwhelming.  But, this year I didn’t quite get the same feelings of dread.  Maybe because I was too busy doing 1 million other things, but I didn’t feel that same “oh god I have to sit down and look at all my failures again,” feeling and for once the only thing that gave me anxiety was that I was going to be 31 and how I hoped that no one would make the restaurant staff sing to me at dinner this week…

I realized that all these years I’ve been constantly competing with myself.  Every year I set the bar higher, do more, do better, be more efficient, work, volunteer, write, research, find my passion, pay off my debts, let go of the weights in my past, love harder, be kinder but remain steadfast.  It’s like me and my goals are flying around in space rotating around the perfect “BGT” trying to get sucked into her gravitational pull to find some kind of order…  So, naturally every year, I let myself down when I don’t achieve all of these crazy benchmarks, and me and my crazy goals are spiraling out of control in space, but not this year.

See this year, I realized I’m the Sun.  Me, this BGT is the Sun, and I’m not waiting to join anyone’s imaginary gravitational pull, because it turns out, I am the pull.  This year I am praising myself for every single accomplishment and failure and I’m equally proud of them all.  I am happy to be in love with someone who only expects love in return.  I am lucky to have dog that’s 11 but is confused for 5.  I am privileged to have a family that loves and supports me despite my flaws.  This year, I am walking into 31 leaving behind a past that I thought would have it’s grasp on me forever.  I feel lighter than any goal weight I’ve ever set for myself.  I found my voice and wasn’t embarrassed to share it with anyone and everyone who was willing (or not) to listen or read it.  I am working everyday to find my passion and enjoying some laughs along the way.  I am using new found time at home to write and research more and I’ve never felt more invigorated to work towards change of all kinds.  Every day, I’m trying really, really hard to be kinder while maintaining my passion and steadfastness and hey I have a little less debt than last year too…  I guess that’s what happens when you turn 31 and realize you are the Sun. 🙂

I’M HERE

Sometimes when I’m really angry I get on social media and I wait… I wait to see the racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and all of the other “issms” and phobias to rear their heads. I simply wait. I wait for the comments to pop up on my feed and read what the kid-now adult-I went to high school with, and his sister, and their Dad’s cousin’s to comment on a news article that the white guy who killed his pregnant wife and two kids is not as abhorrent of a crime because he was born here. Going on about how unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about that situation, but how THAT is very different from the undocumented immigrant who confessed to killing the white girl in Iowa. It’s SO DIFFERENT because he was here “illegally” and IF he hadn’t been here “ILLEGALLY” then that murder would not have happened.  Because for some reason after statistics and logic tell us that white men are over-represented as perpetrators of violent crime, when a brown, black or undocumented person commits it, well then it could have been avoided and so they shouldn’t be here and we should get back to building that wall or passing that ban… So, sometimes I get on social media when I’m angry…and I wait.  (spoiler alert: yes guys the white guy did it…again).

On other days, I don’t.  On these days when the posts are too much and there are too many crying kids in prison-like facilities, confused at the language they’re hearing and the strangers they’re around, and the dirt that’s building on their bodies-on those days, I make myself stay off social media.  Because sometimes seeing the capsized, makeshift rafts that refugees used as boats to cross oceans with their children risking drowning to escape their horrors is too much. Because sometimes, seeing babies drowned on white beaches and then seeing Tim from Indiana’s comment underneath, “they believed in sharia law, is that what you want in your country?!” “They should blame their parents for making that decision,” “We need to take care of our country first!” is just too much. So I stay off social media and, if I stayed off the entire day, I gift myself a bowl of flaming hots (and lemon), and I do it in the name of self-care. My red stained fingers a badge of honor known only to me.  A secret “Good Job, Melody!” to myself.  In all sincerity, I eat flaming hots after I lose my shit on a person like Tim too–it’s still self-care.

But then there are days. Days where all of the posts push me into a daydream of being on CNN and having the producers afraid to take their fingers off the censor button because regardless of how smart and articulate I can be, I’m still this brown girl and I can best express myself when I don’t have to “watch my French” or keep my neck from snaking around. I imagine being split screen alongside ANY conservative commentator and reminding them exactly why what I come from made America great way before it was an acronym on a poorly made hat. And sometimes, when I’m feeling really racy I imagine it’s Tami “that’s not my name” Lahren.  Those are the days I fight with the devil on my shoulder until I shut my eyes for the night to stay the fuck off social media.

Then there are those days, those days when my friend’s lists decrease and my family one too because you decided to comment that “racism isn’t real” and “they should just listen to the police!” and “If women want to be safe then they need to be smarter and not drink or run or walk to their cars alone.” Those are the days where you might catch me on my social media tip and you might flip positions too.

You might decide it was too much and block the thread. You might block my posts. You might even click the unfriend or unfollow button, maybe even the one in real life too. But I’ll still be on my social media tip. I’ll still be in restaurants hoping someone’s friend doesn’t make a racist comment at dinner and I have to spend my two free hours before bed reminding him that I am THAT kind of Mexican and that Black Lives do in fact Matter.

I’ll still be here denouncing people and ideas when I see or hear ignorance in real life or on social media.  I’ll still be challenging, reading, learning, and trying to be a better version of who I was before. I’ll still be pushing, donating, volunteering, and supporting men, women and non-binaries that are under-represented because I AM HERE.

So be annoyed, be an unfriend but I’m still here. I’m the gnat you can’t kill screaming, “Women get paid at most 75% of what men get paid and women have to pay more for things they need like tampons!” So the next time you see “click here to see 274 comments” with my name all over it, don’t scroll past it. Read it. Don’t hit me with the “I didn’t post this to argue,” because as long as I’m here, I’m doing my due diligence the best way I know how and a lot of the times that’ll be right here or on all different types of social media

So, appreciate the fire and challenge yourself to understand the movement. In the meantime I’LL BE RIGHT HERE. 

Immigrants as…Humans?

I sit in court a lot, most mornings that’s where you’ll find me, sitting in a courtroom.  While I wait, I online shop, check the news, Facebook stalk people who were mean to me growing up–realize they were actually all terrible even at 8 years old because as adults they all voted for trump.  It’s all a distraction.  It distracts me from focusing on the fact I have to get up there and be better.  Just in general I have to be better.  Better prepared than the other attorney, know more facts than the other attorney, write down the new deadlines faster than the other attorney, etc.  Why?  Because sometimes judges think I’m an interpreter and ask me to interpret for pro se parties in a courtroom full of my colleagues.  I do it willingly, every time  The people I interpret for remind me of my parents, my aunts, uncles, and my friends’ parents.  The ones that know more English than they think but get really nervous when they’re put on the spot.  The ones who want to make sure they don’t miss one word in a legal proceeding because it could mean the difference between OK and oh fuck.  They trust me, I’m brown like them, my Mexican accent is comforting and they see their kids in me, they see what the kid of an immigrant can be.

My parents are immigrants, they came here undocumented and remained so for a really long time.  So long so, that I remember going to their citizenship ceremony and reciting the pledge of allegiance with a picture of Bill Clinton hanging on the wall.  I had to miss school that day and I went back thinking I too had become an American Citizen at that ceremony.  I proceeded to tell all my 2nd grade classmates how cool it was.  Some of them started to call me an illegal alien.  At parent-teacher conferences my teachers asked my mom if she was lying about my social security number when she enrolled me.  My mom had to explain to them that I was a citizen, but the ceremony was so important to them that they brought us with to witness it–also they couldn’t be sure they would be home before we got home from school.  As an adult I know now that schools are not allowed to ask a child’s immigration status.  My parents, although now documented, are still immigrants.  But they’re parents and they’re people and they’re human.

They aren’t doctors or biochemical engineers who are working on the most forefront research on the cure for pediatric cancer, they’re just humans.  They’re two people who have run a small business for over 30 years.  But they still deserve to be treated as humans.  We all do.  Not every immigrant, documented or undocumented, is going to be a doctor or a the next Harriet Tubman but they still deserve human rights.    My parents are luckier than most, they get to point to my brother and me, and our accomplishments to bolster the undocumented immigrant narrative, like, “look at what we can contribute to society if you let us in!”  But they shouldn’t have to,  sometimes just existing in this country as an immigrant is hard enough.

A lot of people think that immigrants come to this country to take advantage of what the US has to offer.  To that I say, “TRUE TRUE.”  BUT there are two things you’re missing: 1. people wouldn’t leave their countries if the US didn’t go in and colonize the fuck out of places, 2. these people leave EVERYTHING behind, EVERYTHING.  My parents told me, like most other undocumented immigrants I know, that when they came here they left with the clothes on their back….THAT’S IT.  The clothes on their backs.  They left family, homes, jobs, security, etc., because there was more opportunity here.  Or at least the prospect for more opportunities.  Whatever it was, the idea that they could improve themselves was worth leaving behind their entire lives.  Not because they wanted to but because they HAD to.  I don’t think I have to go into the extensive history of the United States and its colonization of  Mexico–Hi Texas!–or the entire maquiladora systems they set up in countries all around the world but long story short, the opportunities aren’t there.  And NO it’s not all the US’s fault, these countries’ governments have played a role, but when your fighting for survival, everyone is fighting for survival and there wouldn’t be a fight for survival if there wasn’t a trigger, *cough cough* US colonization.

But immigrants come here and for the most part they just try to exist.  They work, they pay taxes, they are friends, neighbors, property owners, fathers, mothers, children AND SOMETIMES they produce children or they themselves are impeccably, outstandingly smart and accomplished and are about to change the world.  But mostly, they just try to exist, like you and me.  And I think it’s time to stop seeing immigrants as worthy because they are doctors or engineers or overly accomplished in any other area.  Immigrants are worthy just because they exist here.  Period.

I don’t know one person who has or had the courage to get up and leave their entire life behind to take a chance in a country that has a force whose sole purpose is to remove them from it.  I lied.  I do know people like that, they’re all immigrants, they all came here undocumented and they’re all here EXISTING.  And they are just as worthy of a reason to reform this broken system as Malala, Justino Mora of Undocumedia , and every immigrant engineer and doctor whose story  I see on my Facebook feed.

So I’m done.  I’m done with having to push the stories of the top 1% of undocumented immigrants to convince people that fixing this system is necessary.  From now on, I’m pushing the majority.  The men and women, or however they identify, that are working in the back of the restaurant, cleaning our homes, fixing our shit, working tirelessly to put their kids through school all while not having seen their parents since they left their home countries.  Those are the stories I’m pushing, because that is worthy that is necessary.

I never asked my parents what their dreams were when they were kids but they always told me the only thing they ever wanted was for me to have more than them, to have it easier than them.  I’ll always remember my dad telling me, when he grew up all he wanted was a house with walls and a real floor.  His favorite thing about our house is our hardwood floors, he always told me he dreamed to have the house he lives in now, to him that is a mansion compared to where he came from.  He just hoped that he was able to put me in a position where one day I could have better, that I could have more.  And every immigrant parent I’ve ever met, from doctors to service workers, their goals are the same: to give their children more opportunity than they had.  And that, that makes them worthy.

So the next time you’re thinking about whether the Democrats should let the government shut down because the Republicans refuse to pass a clean DREAM Act or reform this broken immigration system, think of these immigrants.  They have the same goals as you.  The have the same aspirations for the future as you.  They are just as worthy, as you.

 

Brown Girl Talks Meets Bourbon N Browntown

I spend a lot of time on social media sometimes silently but mostly vocally judging people’s opinions on certain human rights topics.  Sometimes though, my social media stalking leads me to discovering new forms of resistance that are happening right in front of me.  This time in particular, my gym life stalking lead me to Caullen Hudson’s Instagram and podcast Bourbon N Browntown that he hosts with his roommate and friend, David Moran.

I causally and creepily slid into Caullen’s DM’s and shot my shot and asked him and David to come have a Brown Girl talk. Luckily for me, they didn’t think I was a major creep and said yes!  Below is what transpired after 5 people of different shades of Brown and religious affiliations chatted over a bottle of tequila and homemade guacamole.

Obviously David and Caullen are doing great things and I am so grateful to have been able to pick their brains a little.  Check out SoapBox PO here!  You can also catch their podcast on iTunes or their website!

Tweet Caullen here!   Caullen’s Instagram!

Tweet David here!     David’s Instagram!

SoapBoxPO Instagram!

DACA: Are we worthy enough for you yet?

A few weeks ago I had the honor of interviewing two DACA recipients, who just so happen to be my cousins!  I did it in podcast form as I think it’s a little easier to hear what someone has to say as oppose to reading it sometimes.  The first few minutes my niece is rudely and loudly interrupting because she is strong, independent and will always reclaim her time–but then she took a nap because being a feminist is exhausting!

My cousins did an excellent job of explaining what DACA is to them and what their plan is with this this program currently in jeopardy.  If you know nothing about DACA or if you want to know what a DREAMER had to deal with to get on DACA or if you fall anywhere in between, I implore you to listen and simply educate yourself a little more.

We are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by documented and undocumented people alike in this country.  In the words of John Legend, “They’re people.  They’re our friends, neighbors and co-workers.  They’re dreamers & lovers.”  And in the words of Angel Pedraza “we’re not going anywhere.”  Thanks for listening, guys!