I was in the 5th grade when the urge to write down my thoughts and emotions arose. So, I begged my mother to buy me a diary that locked and on January 22, 1996, I wrote my very first entry. And it went something like this…
“I am so sad I can’t find a guy for Valentimes. ( ) is looking for a guy to. You know I was going out with ( ). Let me tell you what else he said that he didn’t ask me out and he gave me a paper that said Lisa -N- ( ). You know I am glad I dumped that motherfoker I hate him. anyways I want to get a guy for valentine. If ( ) would ask me out again you know what I would say try to guess.”
Obviously, as a fifth grader, I wasn’t worried about grammar and spelling but as an evolved writer, I am cringing at the sight of this entry. And for anyone who is wondering, I did say yes when ( ) asked me out again. As a result, during Valentine’s Day the following month, he gifted me a cute, silver bracelet that came in a red Macy’s box. I don’t know how he got hold of it, but he did and it made me feel extra special. It was a short-lived relationship; however, how could it not? We had no business being boyfriend and girlfriend at that age. I mean, what do any of us know about relationships in elementary school? For a moment though, I was no longer sad because I ended up with a Valentine just like I wanted. And while we're on the topic, I may as well publicly acknowledge him and his adorable gesture. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us but he did serve our country and my lonely little heart. So, thank you for your service, 5th grade Valentine.
The diary, which I still possess after twenty-eight years, serves as proof that the desire to write was always in me. I was always meant to be a writer even if I hadn’t seen it clearly or understood it for a long time. While employed in the case management field for a grueling fourteen years, I obsessively prayed for clarity and discernment. And by pray, I mean write in prayer form. For years, I was unhappy because I thought I didn’t know what I was good at. I felt I would never find a position or company that would fulfill me. I assumed I didn’t know what I loved to do and would constantly complain, then get annoyed when others attempted to lead me in some sort of direction by asking what I was good at or what I saw myself doing down the line.
The truth is that I didn’t know how to answer those questions because it never dawned on me that perhaps my happiness lay in my self-expression. It never crossed my mind that maybe the road to becoming a writer and a self-published author would be the thing that filled my cup every single time. Additionally, I was obsessed with reading but never made the connection that maybe being a full-time writer was THE call that I kept missing. But then at the end of 2019, all that shifted when a close friend who knew how much I loved journaling sent me an Instagram post that flicked the switch. The Dominican Writer’s Association put out a call inviting writers to a six-week workshop about growing up in Washington Heights—I mean, if that wasn’t a serendipitous and loud-ringing call then I don’t know what is.
And still, I hadn’t fully realized what it all meant. I was fearful and hesitant to even consider the opportunity because I wasn’t a “writer” per se. I just journaled a lot. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it and curiosity wouldn’t let me ignore the nagging feeling that maybe this was something I should try. So, I said fuck it…let’s see what happens.
And what happened was that the same feeling I got when I met my husband was the same feeling I got when I first stepped foot into Word Up Community Bookshop where the workshop would be held for the next six Sundays. Immediately, I felt at home. It was a frightening yes, but it is the YES that continues to change my life with every single project that miraculously comes my way.
Fast forward four years, and I have a bio and artistic resume that speaks volumes and makes me question why I hadn't realized it sooner. Every time I look it over, I’m constantly reminded that this is exactly what I should be doing. In a matter of four years, my essays and poems have been published--numerous times-- in literary journals and anthologies. Some of my works have even taken lives of their own; like the poems that have been performed by wives of famous actors or the ones that have rebranded themselves as theatre performances. Or like the essays that have turned into podcast episodes or short documentaries, among the many opportunities that continue to surface and flourish.
Never could I have imagined or even dreamt up this life for myself. But now that I have a taste of it, I just want to keep savoring it daily. I want to see what else my heart and brain can co-create with the universe. Naturally ambitious, I want to see this gift’s full potential. I want to keep going because I no longer have to question my calling. The work continues to speak for itself and for that, I am eternally grateful. Writing projects are my happy place even if they are challenging. None of it has been easy but it’s been worth it, for sure. And as the saying goes, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. So, here I am, not working because I (involuntarily) switched careers almost two years ago but also because writing has been my true love all along.
And so, this humble little diary serves as a constant reminder that writing was always it, even if it wasn’t clear then. But now that I know for sure, I will continue to cherish this heirloom as a symbol of what it took to get here. I want to put it on display as proof that little me knew we would arrive here eventually. I want this diary to serve as a reminder that the writer wasn’t born in 2019 but in 1996 when she felt the deep urge to put pen to paper.
What this process continues to teach me is that we must follow through with what tugs our hearts. We must leap even if it feels scary as hell. We must get comfortable with being uncomfortable, especially when we’re feeling unfulfilled and like there must be something else out there that speaks directly to our soul.
And I pray, dearest reader, that you are brave enough to seek and find what truly speaks to little you.