I almost didn't make it (to your inbox) this month.
It’s April still and that means I’ve managed to stay true to my pledge of sending you a monthly note. April has been a busier-than-ever-before kind of month — the good-busy kind, though, so I’m not complaining. In fact, if you ever catch me complaining, please, make sure to remind me that it’s a gift to be alive, healthy, happy and confident in who I am.
It took losing the person who made me whole to discover my true self.
It took losing my husband to break the chains that bound my creativity.
Today, I am sure of my talents. Today, I accept my imperfections. I embrace my vulnerabilities.
I am free.
I write to you on my way to Dallas, where I’ll be a keynote speaker at the Dallas Morning News’s awards luncheon, honoring journalists who produced the newspaper’s most impactful work in 2021. I’ve done some speaking this year; earlier this week, I talked about immortality as a concept anchored on remembering. As Isabel Allende wrote in the magnificent “Eva Luna,”
There is no death, daughter. People only die when we forget them. If you can remember me, I will be with you always.
I got a call from a dear friend and fellow journalist before heading to the airport and our conversation inspired me to write these words for the journalists in Dallas. I decided to repurpose them for you:
Writing often slips into a battle of egos. It’s so easy to succumb to the temptation of comparing ourselves to others, measuring our worth by the accomplishments — or stumbles — of others.
My friend is going to a wedding in Poland next month and decided to stay a few extra weeks to do some traveling. She has an opportunity to join another journalist and go to the Polish-Ukrainian border to do some reporting. But she isn’t sure she should go. She’s worried for her safety. Scared. She has no experience in conflict reporting, but, she wondered, how could she explain to her journalism colleagues that she went to Poland and didn’t do any reporting on Ukraine?
When we force ourselves to do something we don’t want to do, we can’t get ourselves to perform as well as we know we can perform.
And that hurts us way more than saying “no.”
I’ve written my fair share of stories from places defined by conflict, like Rio de Janeiro, the city where I grew up, and the U.S.-Mexico border, my backyard. I took calculated risks many times because I believed in what I was after. I knew that I had to bear witness in order to amplify stories that would otherwise go unnoticed. But I’ve never covered a war. I don’t think my heart would have survived it.
I do my best when I let my true self step up to the front of the line and lead the way. I do my best when I care not about what others think of me and focus instead on my skills, my sensitivities, my perspectives and the passion that justifies my presence and participation in whatever it is I’ve chosen to give myself to.
The musical I co-wrote (yes, I co-wrote a freaking musical!) is running Off Broadway through June 19. I would have never agreed to join the creative team behind a musical if I didn’t trust myself.
There’s a lot of buzz about the musical, ¡Americano!, based on the true story of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is one of the best Americans I know. Palabra, a publication of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote a beautiful feature about my journey from immigrant to journalist and book writer (as in musical books, though I’ve also written an actual book and am on my way to finish a second one).
I’ve talked to some really smart podcasters about ¡Americano!, including José Solis, who hosts the very excellent Token Theater Friends. Take a listen (and subscribe)! I’m going to leave you with something I told José:
There’s this prevailing definition of mainstream that has not really served our people well because this prevailing definition of mainstream is based upon an idea of America that is an Anglo-Saxon idea. We are the others, the quote-unquote minorities. Well, the fastest growing category on the census was the mixed category, so people in general are coming to a point where they realize they’re not just one thing. So, I ask you, what is the mainstream when we have a country that’s changing and a new American majority that is no longer an Anglo-Saxon majority?
It’s up to you to pick the labels that describe you. And it’s OK, totally OK, to have a lot of labels attached to you. I do.
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