This year I have made up my mind to be myself openly, authentically, and unapologetically– all things that are pretty much out of my comfort zone. On my father’s side, I am a woman of color, but I was raised solely by my white mother. I am Brazilian-born, but American-raised. I love creative writing and art, but earned a degree in business. I’m an open book, but afraid of vulnerability. You could say that I’m a walking contradiction. I have been trying to make sense of all that I am, and that has made me overthink everything from who I identify with, what is right for me to do or say about perceptions of me, and ultimately my place in the world. Overthinking has kept me from taking personal risks and doing what I love.
Growing up undocumented, I had to tell people just enough about me to be social, but not enough to be judged or risk being turned in. I had to find motivation to “reach for the stars” when the ceiling of what was possible seemed so low. Then, as a DACA recipient I was told to trust America. I was encouraged to trust the government with my information, politicians and activists to fight with and for me for a path to citizenship, and even to trust people I knew with my story in order to raise awareness. I now feel that the DREAMers were given a false sense of security and encouragement to live their truth, because in 2016 everything came back to haunt them, and now their safety net may be completely removed. Until that point, I had been just vocal enough to connect with others, but without getting my hands dirty in the fight for justice for immigrants.
I have always wanted to work with social media, and in sharing that part of myself I started to heal from a lifetime of feeling worthless. Then, an art student from Santa Barbara, reached out to me to help with a piece for her art show. She asked if I would be willing to share a photo with her, that she could paint, that would show how arbitrary borders are. I did contribute to her piece, and that gave me a sense of pride that I had never felt before. But then things got scarier and public opinion became harsher for immigrants.
After ICE organized the mass raids, I went back to hiding because my trust had been broken. Being cautious has held me back from pursuing my passions of writing, being creative, and being an advocate. In my heart, I know that is what I should be doing. No matter who you are or what you’re dealt with, you are blessed with your gifts and your story. Your gifts are what you have to work with, and your story is what resonates with others and attracts people to you. Combining the two things is key to finding purpose in life. I am ready to be real uncomfortable to find mine.