Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reflections from Traveling: New York

Thing about traveling for me is that it has and always will be a privilege that snaps back at you like a rubber band. NY is a city I have always wanted to visit and the fact that I finally got to go and have a magnificent time there makes the sting of the snap that much more noticeable. A trip like this leads to a lot of reflecting in almost every aspect of my life and in the work I do within social justice. I don't feel guilty for taking this trip because I busted my ass to make it happen, but it also goes without saying that I'm fortunate enough to have a job that gives me paid vacation, something I still struggle to grasp. I have DACA, which makes traveling that much easier than in the past when I used my Mexican Passport, I can splurge on food or things knowing that I won't have to resort to exclusively eating cereal for the next few weeks, and that I have a home waiting for me when I get back. Every time I leave my neighborhood for a few days I come back appreciating it more so than before.

Out of everything that I experienced in this last trip, my latest realization came to me over diner, and it's that I'm at a point in my life in which 'undocumented' is now brought up in conversations as them and not I. I've noticed this at work, among friends, and in other spaces that have ties to social justice work. I've had DACA for more than three years now and I stopped being active in immigrant rights spaces far longer than that. It makes sense that the further I got from those kind of spaces, the less frequency the issue of my immigration status would come up. I suppose it's also a sign of the times as well in that being undocumented is still a critical issue in this country, there are those like me who are able to transcend that and carry on an average life style that completely overshadows my status as an immigrant.

I can call this specific situation a bunch of different things, but at the end of the day, I've shifted to a place where my immigration status doesn't hinder any aspects of my day to day life anymore. Obviously I can still lose my work permit, get deported, lose my job, my housing etc, but even those situations are a bit on the extreme end given the normalcy of my everyday routine. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a fear of having everything I've worked for taken away from me, but even then, I know I would be able to bounce back on my feet and carry on some how. This trip to NY helped me step back a bit and look from the outside in as to who and how I am.

My attention has been on other matters, so I never noticed this change and with good reason, its been a natural progression and growth of my identity. From being more responsible to my emotional and metal maturity, I'm the same person I've always been, just an improved version of the previous ones. Being quasi undocumented has also changed those dynamics for the better in that things got easier and more doors opened up. Growth and change are a funny business, but they're both experiences I've enjoyed basking in these last few years. Moving forward, I'll have to be mindful in how I talk about others who may be undocumented and/or immigrants because I don't want to get to a place in which I 'other' individuals who I share a unique experience with. No, that's not the kind of person I wanna be.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On Writing Less Frequently & Changing Focus

When I first started blogging and sharing, I thought to myself that I would never run out of things to write about if I focused on what is going on in my life. That logic worked for a good while and I came here to write out and share whatever I was going through. Much like any diary, you look back on things and reflect to remember where you were and how much progress and growth you've made as an individual since then. Being undocumented, now DACAmented, it took on another layer of being ope about what I was going through because I knew other would relate. Fact of the matter is, I just don't see a point in repeating myself when it comes to writing here.

The last big thing I cranked out was my 10 year anniversary and that took me more than a year to finish, but I like reflecting on things like that. And it's not like my life has gotten a lot more boring these last few years, on the contrary, I've been more active than I've ever been before, but I don't feel the need to write and share what is on my mind like I use to. Partly because I've already done it and because it helped me grow as an individual, so those issues aren't things that will throw me for a loop or trigger anything unhealthy. I could also write endlessly about politics and issues going on, but the number of think pieces on the most mundane and trivial things is too damn high. Nothing but a bunch of click bait is what it is.

Not only that, I'm no one of high or low profile to say this person is fucking up cause of this or that person is fucking up cause of that and will the real slim shady please stand up. Not to say that I don't enjoy good gossip here and there though. There is enough of that around the net and it comes in waves, I'd rather be looking at gifs on tumblr. The other thing you have to take into account is that I do communications for a living now. Yeah, I'm surprised things worked out that way, but I enjoy the work I do and where I'm at. Sure, I'll whine about my commute to and from work on twitter and Facebook, but show me a person who doesn't and I will gladly shut up. So the last thing I wanna do when I get home is spend more time in front of my computer.

Along the same lines, I can't be as open and as public with my comments and critics as I use to. There's a few reasons for that, but the primary one being 'office politics,' as in I have a pretty good network of folks and screwing up that up would mean the down fall my being able to have steady employment or work with others when projects/events come around. This is a dramatic change for me because I was the opposite of that for a long time and whether I like it not, I have to place nice with the other kids. I had a similar experience like this in the 3rd grade haha, but I digress in that I just plain don't want people knowing my business anymore. Least not as much as when I first got on social media and posted existential shower thoughts about life for attention. No, while I do get urges to post content like that sometimes, I'm pretty good about not going through with it, minus a slip here and there.

I pretty much have my head on straight these days and I'm pretty good about keeping busy with social justice stuff or catching up on personal things like reading. Sadly, that means less posting about that kind of stuff on here, but for sure not stopping indefinitely though. Nor does this mean that I'm going the creative writing route and I'm gonna start posting poems and short stories on here either. I have some stuff lined up already for the mean time that will help set the precedent I'll be taking in future post. While I don't have much to share anymore in terms of what it's like to live as an undocumented immigrant in this country, I got a whole bunch of other stuff I've been wanting to get into that has more of a pop-culture focus to it, but through my unique lens of course. Least before all those clit bait sites catch on to it and turn it to dribble. Point is, while I won't be writing as much as I use, I'll still be writing none the less.  


Thursday, February 11, 2016

On Paying Taxes

I've written about the chains that bind being an immigrant to money. You can read that here. It's nothing new, nor is this an attempt at a think piece that'll go up on some click bait site like the Huffington Post, only to be blindly shared on social media for a few seconds. No, like the majority of my writing here, this is me thinking out loud. Ever since I started paying taxes, both through an ITIN and currently through DACA, it has always bugged me that not only does the government take their cut from my checks automatically, but I also end up paying a few more thousand dollars more every year because I have no deductibles to claim. It makes me feel as if I'm just working to pay for the privilege to pay.

And that's when it hit me, everything I pay through state and federal taxes is the literal monetary value this country puts on me and my immigration status. Don't let anyone tell you that you can put a number to the cost of a life because bother, lemme tell you, I put a a few numbers together every year to be able to live comfortably. I've gotten out of the habit of justifying my life style by comparing it to someone else's and saying that at least I'm not them, you know. That whole, 'things could be worse'  and "at least I'm not them" expression. The system doesn't give me any incentives to play by the rules, rather, I get taxed even harder when I do.

It would be so easy to just flat out not pay any kind of taxes or go to a crooked notary and lie to get all kinds of money back, but that would kill any and all future chances of being a permanent resident. I mean really, that's the only reason I have for flying straight and paying up, for the hope that things will get better and I won't have to be on DACA the rest of my life. Bu you know what, putting that kind of fear into someone will only make them work hard enough to not get caught and just go through the motions. Still, at the end of the day, I have nothing to complain about given my current life style. I just like to complain and moan about the financial responsibilities I have to this country. I work semi-hard for that money, I should be able to frivolously spend it as I see fit, but that's not how things work. That's not how they work at all.      

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