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.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Pop Culture Through Identity

During my teen years, my family moved around a lot. I ended up going to four different high schools in four years. When asked about this by others, easiest thing for me to do is to say that my family moved around because we were following work. Most folks usually stop asking questions after that because it's a lot more complicated than just following work. As such, I was perpetually the new kid. Every time I got comfortable where I was and the friends I made, we moved. All that moving caused a kaleidoscope of issues growing up because things were always in flux, but the one constant that I had in those days was geek-culture. Whether it was watching syndicated episodes of the Simpsons, sitcoms, comic books, video games or movies, no matter where I moved to, they were always there in different shapes and forms. As such, I anchored my identity to said geek-culture for a lot of different reasons that go into escapism, entertainment, and fitting in at school.

Much like everyone else in their adolescent years, I would put out my flags by scribbling on my note books, putting band patches on my back pack, and carrying trading cards in my school binders. Yes, you read that right, trading cards. From Marvel to Pokemon, I kept them inside my binder so that when I was in class, those around me would casually notice them and strike up a conversation to the affect of, "ohh you collect cars too? Let's hang out." It never failed. This is what helped me break the ice every time I changed schools and had to make friends all over again. I relied on this crutch for years, even after graduating from high school, since geek-culture wasn't what it is today with movies and tv shows all over the place. Being a nerd, geek, dork whatever you wanna call it, it's normalized now.

My individual identity has grown and changed over the years, but the foundation has remained the same. As such, I've stopped using pop culture and interest like that as crutches for my identity. It's not that I don't like all those things anymore, rather I'm over using other peoples works to express my individualism. Maybe it's age, but the older the I get the more I catch myself obsessing over trivial things that are nothing more than entertainment. I've gone through a few different phases of this over the years, but now more than ever, I'm avoiding it altogether. I don't need to obsess over a tv show, movie franchise or anything else of the sort. I find it pathetic that folks look at me and think, 'ohh yeah. Erick is a huge Star Wars fan, Simpson fan, Comic Book fan etc. Most folks wouldn't even know who shot first, Han or Greedo.

It's all one giant played out inside joke in the end to get us to spend money on Darth Vader shower heads and Hello Kitty Vans. Still, I'll keep watching, reading, and buying because they're entertaining and that's where they'll stay for me. Sure, there's a whole bunch of other layers that touch on how entertainment like this influences society as a whole and how it plays out in our everyday lives, but that's neither here nor there. And don't even get me started on the issue of connecting the web of influences that go into movies, shows, and comics that I follow till I get to the root of it. Come on, Star Wars is nothing more than a mishmash of Buddhism set in outer space with Samurais, Cowboys, politics, war, romance, and white saviors. You're better off watching the Akira Kurosawa movies that "inspired" George Lucas, sans outer space and light sabers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Adequate Skills to Pay the Monthly Bills


Went on a job interview recently and it left me lingering on a few different things that I haven't really given much thought to. Without giving away the money shot, I work at a non-profit as a communications manager. Fancy titles aside, I'm basically the person in the office that handles the posting, sharing, creation etc. of everything that can fall under communications. From writing/sending email newsletters, posting on social media, managing press, and light manual labor from time to time. This allows me to live comfortably enough that I spend around $50 a month buying comic books without having to think twice about it. As someone who has been working some kind of job ever since I could remember, this is my current pinnacle given that I live my life two years at a time because of my DACA work permit and quitting community college after seven years of back and forth.

This job I interviewed for was a full time gig doing basically the same thing I'm doing now, but full time and in a much larger capacity. That gig would have given me the kind of pay beyond anything I have ever had within my life time. For a cool minute, I let myself think about the kind of life I would have if I had a legit full time gig like that. I looked forward to the idea of not having to have two part time jobs and side hustle anymore. To go into the office, do my thang Monday through Friday, and occasionally on weekends, and not have to worry about money. However, I didn't let it get past the bus ride home after that interview because that ain't for me.

For all the skills to pay the bills that I have, I doubt I'll get called back for a second interview. As such, I got to thinking about it. I have never truly felt comfortable owning the skills that I have for two reasons, one being that I procured said skills to pay the bills through a combination of "each one teach one" back when I was part of the "Dreamer" movement, and a few years of being a writer for my college newspaper. Secondly, I just never take myself too seriously when it comes to the work that I do for a lot of complicated reasons.

The years I spent in community college and at the school newspaper got me where I am today because I just took what I learned and applied it else where. I got a rush from writing stories and seeing them in print, knowing that someone would read it. I didn't get the same rush when I began blogging here, but I did get it when I started blogging about the neighborhood I live in, Boyle Heights. I look back at those old post from time to time and I cringe at how bad my grammar was because I didn't have someone to copy edit me like I did at the school paper. None the less, despite my horrid grammar, I was sharing things no one else was and by default, I became the go to person. My neighborhood was my beat and in the hay day of this blogging/reporting, I was having the best time of my life despite being broke as a joke, working part time at a fast food restaurant, going to school part time, sleeping on the floor of a friends house, using a first generation iphone as my digital tool box to take pictures and write stories that I would later flush out on a borrowed computer. I had everything going against me, but I kept at it over the years and I got lucky here and there by scoring some paying gigs from time to time. Boy I tell you what, there wasn't a better feeling than getting paid to write.

Through said writing I was able to connect to folks that were holding down the Dream Act movement back in the day. Eventually I got to the point where I had met in some shape or form, some of the folks that helped build the foundation of this movement here in California. Eventually I gave up on journalism because I didn't want to be a reporter anymore. Being objective wasn't something I could be back then, so rather than writing about the movement, I joined up and put my skills to use there. Like a lot of folks back in those early days, we just did work and made it happen one way or another. Over the years, I added even more skill-sets that complimented the foundation I already had. I worked media with a homie I've had the pleasure of knowing for years now. Naturally, as my skills and maturity grew, I took my skills to the next level by doing internships at labor unions and learning, complimenting everything I picked up when I was in the "dreamer' movement. Before I knew it, I had a reputation for being a 'communications' guy. Fact of the matter was that I just knew how to do the most basic of things when it came to doing digital organizing. I didn't see the need for me to go into a university and get a degree in something I already knew how to do better than most folks that got paid to do that work at established organizations. They would come to me for help when trying to do things, but the name of the non-profit game calls for those fancy degrees and eventually I just faded out on everything and got to a place where I could finally live on my own. Within the circles I was in, I was able to get multiple part time jobs that allowed me to put my digital organizing skills to use and make a living, which to me was the pinnacle of my career since that was never my plan. I haven't taken full ownership of my said skills because it doesn't feel right to be making bank off something that was shared with me with the intention to help me grow, rather than make money.

Which leads me to why I have never taken my skill-set seriously. I acknowledge that I am where I am because I am good at what I do, but I am not perfect. My current job situation is one where I have never been happier to be part of an amazing space and get support in the work that I do, but my limits are starting to show. Only so much time can pass before what amazed folks in the beginning is now just another common every day occurrence. Even I get tired of doing what I do every day, at the end of the day a job is a job. There are plenty of new skills I can add to my tool box not just because I like keeping up with trends, but because that's how fast digital organizing moves. So many things to keep up with everyday that I get overwhelmed sometimes and that's part of why I don't take my skills seriously. I read so much crap on a daily basis from being on social media that by the time I get to work I already have a headache and I'm annoyed by the trends going around. Being able to read through all this crap is a double edge sword cause while I shift through everything to find the good stuff to read or share, I have to eat double that in what I see other people posting online. These trends change daily and while they can be predicted around specific times, instances, moments etc., they change twice as fast. I'm over here trying to make sense of snapchat while everyone else lives on it. Next thing I know I'm yelling at kids to get off my lawn while shaking my fist in the air. So much drama tied to our digital lives now that I can't take it seriously without being heavily drugged on something. Then before I know it, I started another twitter fight that leads to hella indirect black mailing with something else that had nothing to do with it. Bruh, chill. And yet, there in lies my problem, I forget that not everyone else doesn't not take it seriously. They take it seriously. And so conversations are had, butts get hurt, and things move along.

I know that I will have to eat through a hell of a lot more job rejections before I am seriously considered for the kind of gig people would take it and stay till they retire. Sure, I can be just like everyone else and fake it till I make it. Own everything and blemish here and there to get the gig, but a moment will come where you bluff is called out and you'll have to make the magic happen and pull it off some how. I don't like those situations. I've used up all my life lines already were another situation like that come about, I would go down with that ship. I'll just take the rejection and avoid that altogether. In the mean time, I'll just continue as planned and keep growing where I am at like I had it planned for the next two years, per DACA. Not like I would have used that dental and health insurance anyway. *Cough *Cough *Cough

 


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Norms

I am not comfortable around norms. Depending on the situation, it can vary from slight annoyance at having to be somewhere or participate in something to being physically ill. Totally not being dramatic, I get sick in certain situations, probably as a self defense mechanism, but it happens. Whether they're social or cultural, norms of any kind pain me. It's been that way ever since I can remember. A lot of it has to do with the way I grew up, my family, and of course my experiences here in the US. Everyone at school would be sharing a similar story about their families did on holidays and I would never say anything cause my experiences didn't reflect theirs. That continued on until a reach a point of agency and the ability to chose to participate in norms.

Once that happened, I avoided them at every turn. Like wearing your Sunday best. It didn't hit me until later on how uncomfortable I felt and actively avoiding routines like that. I also spent a couple of years house surfing from place to another. As such, I had to participate in familial events cause I was a guest. Birthdays, holidays etc. You have no idea how many times I just wish I could leave and go be somewhere else alone. I'm grateful that now I have choice in how I spend those kind of days and how I can take advantage of them in different ways.

Now adays, being on social media exasperates those feelings of nausea with new norms and old norms over whelming me. That's why I avoid social media on national holidays or around specific celebrations. There's just no point in me looking at social media feeds cause everyone is out there taking selfies, pictures of their foods, babies etc. I chewed on that one year and asked myself if I felt grossed out by norms because they were reflections of thins I wish I long for in my life. That shook some old foundations, but I realized that I was wrong. If I wanted what everyone else had and to participate in norms, I've had plenty of opportunities to have them in my life.

Except, I don't want that. The culmination of my demeanor is too intricate for me to try to put down in a blog post. I just know what I like and what I want, simple as that. While I avoid norms like the plague, I've gotten to a place where I can be in those spaces without being a dick and spoiling things for others. Sure, I'll talk my trash and make my comments on social media, but you won't see me turning down free food, drinks, and cool peeps. And like everything else in my life, having a different perspective on things as I get older have lead to rejecting all new kinds of norms now. Except now when I complain, it is usually followed by an 'old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn' joke. So, get off my lawn.    

Monday, September 14, 2015

#UndocuMoney #MigrantsOverMoney


VS


In the last beef among folks in the immigrant/undocumented youth movement, specifically those (myself included) who have been part of the DREAM Act/DACA movement at one point and/or still are part of said movement/fight and the newer crop of folks coming in, why putting a monetary value on the lives of individuals is problematic. Didn't know this was an on-going beef? Well then there are two answers as to why that is. One, you aren't or have never really been part of the "movement." Two, you just don't care and go on about your life. If you are number two, then good for you. If you are number one, then I can't help you there. For everyone else, this is nothing new.

Mind you that it's only been in the last few years that individuals, myself included, have been scandalously vocal when it comes to talking trash on campaigns, actions, and individuals that are problematic. It's so easy to drink haterade, you don't even know. So then, #undocumoney versus #migrantsovermoney. Got it? No? Puez click the hyper links and read it for yourself cause ain't no body got time for that.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Mexican Superman

Clip from the new Superman v Batman movie.
My affinity for comic books is something everyone knows about me. Specifically cause I've used the "Superman is an immigrant" analogy, along with a few others when talking about my experiences growing up undocumented. It's also one that has been beaten to death in the last couple of years by those who don't understand the history of the character, how it has changed over the decades, and why someone who is undocumented would gravitate toward that kind of mythology. I've written about this a few times here, here, and here. I've also been featured writing about that analogy here. This post isn't about a campaign, petition, or cause. It is purely comics based with a bit of social commentary and my thoughts on the new DC animated movie Justice League: Gods and Monsters. So unless you speak geek, feel free to check out cause I'm doing something I rarely get to do, which is to totally nerd out.