The Candle that Burns at Both Ends


It seems unbelievable, but another year has gone by. It’s 2016! And I think, after all I’ve experienced in the last two years, that I can safely say that I have no idea what this year will hold. In any case, it’s time for my yearly tradition of writing myself a letter about the past year and my hopes for the next. For the last two letters, click here and here.

You’re still here. No small feat, that. Another year gone and you continue to stretch the limits of who you think you are, to challenge your own beliefs, and take apart your own assumptions. You continue to fight tooth and nail for what you want and yet you’ve allowed yourself the flexibility to change the object of your desire as necessary. When the world treats you poorly or life doesn’t unfold as you’d planned, your first instinct isn’t to blame the world, but rather to dissect your perception of the world, although you’re not afraid to place blame where it belongs. This year has been difficult in many ways, ways you mostly didn’t foresee, but you have emerged on the other side stronger, better, and more aware.

It’s hard to believe you’ve been in South America for fifteen months, not counting the three months you spent at home tying up loose ends. That time was spent in a kind of holding pattern. You couldn’t really get on with your life in California because all you could think about was picking up the strings of the life you left back in Ecuador. Eventually you made it back and spent the next couple of months wandering about, second-guessing your choice. So few things are ever easy. So few things are impermeable to doubt. But then you started the job you thought you always wanted, and soon after fell into the job you never considered you might be meant for. Connections came together as if they were meant to be (though you don’t believe that). You met people who irrevocably altered your time in Ecuador, and all for the absolute better. You laughed more this year than you maybe ever have. You loved harder and danced with less restraint than you had ever allowed yourself to do before. You nurtured the flame that burns so brightly within you. Continue to grow, to diffuse your limitations, to open up. Continue to follow–and emulate–the sun.

This year was quite literally a dream, yet it was also a challenge. You resent how the amount of harassment you experience on a daily basis fills you with a kind of oily, residual anger that makes you want to lash out at any strange man that says hello or tries to touch you. You daydream about screaming at them, about pushing or kicking the ones who touch you without invitation. Find a way to channel that anger in a meaningful way. Don’t let it make you bitter. Don’t let it make you blind to all the good men there are in the world. But also don’t let it make you smaller. Don’t change who you are in the hopes that they’ll notice you less. Be whoever the fuck you want to be. Show as much or as little of yourself as you want. Just make sure it’s on your own terms, and not subject to the whim or approval of some nameless other.

The state of the world has also made you angry and, at times, despondent. It seems the -isms are taking over. Don’t let yourself become numb. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can’t make some kind of difference, no matter how big or small. You can. You will. You just have to be brave enough to try.

Take what you’ve learned about yourself this year and hold it close. You’ve finally realized that what you crave above all else–in friendship, in romance, etc.–is intimacy. Don’t settle for less. The withdrawal, the sense of having cheated yourself out of something worthwhile, is too strong and too unpleasant. Work to forge the relationship you want and need from the building blocks of what you’re traditionally allowed. Burn down the cathedral if need be. No one knows what is best for you, what you are capable of, more than you yourself. You contain multitudes. Don’t let yourself be simplified.

In the coming year, you’ll once again be home, in a place that has become more and more worthy of that word. Don’t lose your sense of adventure. Pay off your debts. Cut off any ties that are not worthy of holding you in place, while simultaneously strengthening the bonds that are. Do everything you can to figure out what you want from the next few years of your life. After a year, will you stay or will you go? If you decide on the former, don’t be afraid to put down roots. You can always pull them up again if you have to. If it’s the latter, that’s OK too. Your instincts have led you well so far. Listen to them. Save money while you’re figuring it out, so that when the decision is made you will already have taken the first step.

Continue to work on being kinder. Allow for the weaknesses in others as they allow for yours. Be humble, yet willing to sing your own praises if no one else will. As C. S. Lewis said, “Being humble isn’t about thinking less of yourself, but thinking about yourself less.” Remember that when someone doesn’t want you, it’s only because they can’t see that which is valuable in you. Don’t judge others. When you have a negative thought about someone you don’t even know, remember that your perception is colored by your experience, and you don’t have the right to thrust this perception on those around you. Be authentic with your words–there are enough empty ones in the world without your contribution. Possibly the greatest lesson you’ve learned in Ecuador is how to say “no.” Hold on to that. Use it as both shield and weapon. You’re allowed to use it as often as you please.

It seems as if you’ve finally started writing something. Keep going. Don’t fear failure. Don’t fear that it will be less than a masterpiece. It probably will be. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Pursue the things you love, the things that make you feel free. Take dance classes. Learn one of the many instruments you’re interested in. Take French lessons, or Arabic, or Portuguese. Never, ever stop trying to learn.

In closing, you’re so near to being everything you ever hoped you would be. Go on. Keep moving forward. Your candle may burn at both ends, but it casts that much more light for doing so. You deserve everything you want, and more. I love you.






La Güera Continues a Tradition, Writes Herself a Love Letter


A couple of years ago I started a tradition. Instead of making a list of resolutions that I would most likely not keep, thereby setting myself up for disappointment, I decided that I would write myself a letter reflecting on the past year. To see one of my past letters, click here. It has been the most amazing year of my life, hands down, and I’m going to share my letter with all of you. I know I haven’t been writing as much (getting re-acclimated to home is no joke) and I’ll write about that soon, but for now, I just want to wish all my friends out in the world and those still traveling a happy new year. Here’s to one as good as the last:

2015. Christ. Each year that passes seems to bring us further and further into some science fiction future. But damn, 2014 was a year that will never be forgotten. You started the year amidst mediocrity: just bouncing back from a bad experience with a guy that affected you more than you cared to admit, at a job that caused you to question your own self-respect with a boss who did everything he could to force you into a carefully-controlled little box. But you were already taking steps towards changing everything. You applied and received a scholarship to a certification program for TESOL, you began working for Lyft in order to save money and get out of debt (keep working on that one), and you bought the plane ticket that would change your life. A few months later you got fired from the “hostile environment” you hated by the man you hated and were thus given an opportunity to gain back all your dignity by telling him exactly what he needed to hear (essentially a verbal middle finger in the air) as you walked out. That day, the school you had just graduated from offered you a job as a teacher and when you stopped at the beach on the way home from getting fired, there were fucking dolphins in the surf. I don’t know how many other ways the universe can show you that everything is as it should be.

Getting fired when you did allowed you to enjoy to the utmost your final two months in San Francisco. You partied so that your youth could stretch its legs after spending so much time cooped up at a desk, you danced so that your body could show the elation you felt inside, your every step crackled with energy as you careened towards the date of your departure to South America. Once you left the city and arrived back in Orange County as your last stop before take-off, you were given (and you took advantage of) the opportunity to get closer to your family and make sure that all of your connections were rock-solid before you left. You allowed things to happen that you would have once tried to control and suppress. Once you finally boarded that plane, you had no regrets, no fear — only hope.

Your travels were everything that you hoped they would be, and everything you never dreamed of. You found your strength and you found love — for places, for undreamt vistas, for friendly faces whose tongues spoke languages not your own. You once again called on your ability to make decisions on the fly, to find the courage to change your plans and your mind, to allow for other people’s faults in the hopes that they allow for yours.

It was not all roses, though. You need to be a little more careful with yourself and you have a scar now to remind yourself of that. It’s a lucky thing you like scars almost as much as tattoos because it’s one for the books. You know what you want now, but what you need to do is allow yourself to find it. You know what you want, so stop settling for anything less. Making the same mistake again and again will never yield the answer you’re looking for. Know that your “no”, in any situation at any point and with any person, is enough and justification is unnecessary. You don’t always need to be nice although it’s admirable that it’s your first instinct. But make it a critical instinct, not a blind one. Save the best of you for those who deserve it.

Finally, the things you want to continue to achieve. Be authentic: with your words, your gestures. Write more (start that book!). Read more, always. Reading is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to expand your mind, to challenge your thoughts, your beliefs, to see through the lens of another’s experiences. Continue to cultivate curiosity and follow it. Continue to break down your walls. Sharing more of yourself doesn’t make you weak, it makes you brave. One of your greatest achievements is your confidence in yourself, in your body and your beliefs. Ten years ago, you would have never believed that you would be a woman who liked, let alone loved, herself as she was, but here you are and it’s a beautiful thing. Continue to ignore the culture that tells you that you’re too solid, too “there”. Continue to make yourself seen and heard and felt. Keep your eyes and your heart and your mind as open as possible. There is nothing you can’t do if you have the discipline, the faith in yourself, and the confidence to work for it.

This coming year, you will once again be achieving a dream, the dream of teaching in a foreign country. Not many people can say that they are actively following their dreams. Be proud.

You are strong, beautiful, fearless. Let no one take that from you. Let no one treat you as less.

I love you.