When COVID hit, I was furloughed from my job as a Website Content Manager. During my 2-month furlough, I would learn that I was not really a good Content Manager nor a really ‘good’ writer, and I was not really happy with either of those things. Having the privilege to stay home during a global pandemic brought me face-to-face with a cold reality: I was not living up to my potential.
The first week of my furlough, I was profoundly depressed. Showers and cleaning were my last priority. I blamed myself for not being good enough at my job to keep it, and I was embarrassed like it was my fault the company felt I was not worth keeping around during hard times. It damaged a part of me I worked so hard to build up. I was a fucking hustler, and when COVID-19 hit, I was forced to reckon with the person I became to fit the toxic American work culture. I had given this company so much of myself, so much of my creative and influential work, and they just dumped me when things got hard.
So, what did I do after I got dumped? I did what any person would do; I went on the rebound. I started looking for another job, but with each job description I read, I realized more and more how unqualified I appeared to be. I didn’t have a portfolio ready or samples of my work saved. My resume was outdated, and I had less than 1 year of professional copywriting experience. No one wanted to hire me, especially not during a global pandemic. I felt betrayed by the company I worked for, for promoting me into a role and not teaching me a god-damned thing. Was it my responsibility to do that for myself? Was I expected to teach myself how to do the job, or was this just a standard practice that companies do? How did they expect me to do better if they offered no learning opportunities? That’s when I finally realized that these big companies don’t really give a shit about us at the end of the day. And that hurt.
I knew I needed to reset—I needed to find my passion again. Who do I want to be? What kind of words do I want to be attached to my name? What topics do I love writing about? That’s when it hit me: relationships. I fucking love writing about exes.
During my time off from the company, I didn’t go back to school to brush up on knowledge that was going to help a corporate retailer get richer off my underpaid labor; I decided to write for myself instead. I decided to tell my story about how I learned how to be a better partner, how to be healthy in a relationship, how to love, so to speak. I rummaged through the journal I kept since 2013 and found some excellent writing, so I started there, and then Learning How to Love was born. It’s the story of how Lola fell in love many times over and how she overcame an abusive relationship. And by Lola, I mean me. The stories were heavily inspired by real-life events, and the characters, whose names were obviously changed, were all people I loved once.
It got a lot of traction with my community on Instagram and some of my friends loved the way the stories made them laugh and blush. I wish I could say how confident these stories made me feel, but each story exposed me more than the last. The vulnerability hangovers were an unexpected side effect to publishing these “fiction” stories. I was only supposed to publish about 10 chapters, but I lost my footing halfway through writing Chapter 7. I fell hard into drinking and smoking again, trying to forget the abusive relationship that took so much from me in such little time. I couldn’t finish writing the story about how Lola overcame the abusive relationship because I hadn’t overcome it in real life.
The company reinstated my job around the time I was due to publish Chapter 7, so I told my community that work was keeping me really busy, and the stories would have to wait. But the truth was that I needed a break. I needed to heal. And I wanted to learn how to write about gut-wrenching experiences without traumatizing my readers and retraumatizing myself. It was time for me to invest in my storytelling and divest from sharing publicly.
Like most of you, I spent a lot of time on social media since March 2020, and I used this time to connect with Latinx writers from all over the U.S. I came across Vanessa Martir, who was hosting free/donation-based writing workshops, and I fell in love with the way she taught us the craft. In 2021, I signed up for the Writing the Mother Wound Workshop she teaches once a year, and fuck—that shit dragged me. I said I wanted to write about trauma without retraumatizing myself, but what ended up happening? I started writing about my trauma, and I drove myself into another depression. Except this one was an, I am my mother’s daughter kind of depression. (Vanessa warned me this would happen if I didn’t self-care whilst writing about things that hurt, but I never seem to listen.)
I couldn’t complete Vanessa’s workshop, but I took the tools she gave me and ran with them. I wrote until I couldn’t write anymore. This was work that needed to be written. The tears that sprinkled my journals were evidence that I was doing the heart-work. I was finally tapping into the shadow parts of myself that I wished to keep hidden. I was finally revealing parts of myself that needed tending to. I was finally setting myself free.
And where is this work, you ask? Why, they’re in my journals, where they will stay until I’m ready to green-light those stories. But this isn’t about these unpublished babies; this is about how I finally realized that I am responsible for taking learning into my own hands to push myself further. This brings me to today: I am more than just a writer; I’m a relationship writer, copywriter, and content manager.
Why do I keep denying these parts of me?
I have spent a decade of my life writing about my relationships in a 2-pound journal I’ve kept since 2013. This is where I analyze what went wrong, what went right, where I could improve, where I could draw the line. I am a relationships writer because I’ve been practicing this for years. And I’ve read many books, articles, and papers on healthy relationships because this is what I wanted for myself. Learning something for your own life purposes can also be used in a professional setting.
Why hadn’t I made that connection sooner? Where did this divide between knowledge learned outside-of-work and at-work become a barrier between myself and my full potential?
When I started my job as a Content Manager, I expected someone else to hold my hand and show me the ropes. I blame public school education for teaching me how to depend on systems. Still, in reality, I should have set my own expectations, created my own learning schedule, and built myself up. In the end, I am responsible for bettering my skills, no one else. Most big companies aren’t going to spend money to elevate their employees because they don’t want to promote them or pay them more.
So, here we are today, and I’m learning the foundations of being a better Content Manager so that I don’t ever feel inadequate again. When I was promoted into this role, I already had a working knowledge of managing a website, because I had been managing lolalapoeta.com for years. I didn’t know what else there was to learn so I didn’t go looking for answers, even though I had many questions. So, when I was furloughed, I felt like it was because I wasn’t very good at my job. (My boss says otherwise. He is very patient with me and has let me learn at my own pace.)
However, being furloughed was a wake-up call, one I really needed to remind me why I was writing and working in the digital space in the first place. I started asking new questions and looking for my own answers. What kind of company do I want to be associated with my work? What kind of business would I run? How can I change the way we talk to our customers?
I am learning that I can’t keep denying parts of myself to make others feel more comfortable. I exist as a whole. When I show up to work, I show up as a multi-dimensional creative being who empowers people through content. I need to embrace my full set of skills instead of fitting a mold of what I think others expect of me. Because I am far from what people expect in the roles where I take up space. And I want to work with people who naturally accept that.
I never got a degree in writing and rarely published anything, but that doesn’t make me any less of a writer. I am learning the foundations and consistently practicing my skills so I can publish my own stories. So that I can write how I really feel without feeling too exposed. So that I can share what I’ve learned with others so that I can make the world a safer place. I did not take the traditional route to be a writer, but I am still here.
I can’t separate my work self from my personal self. The two co-exist simultaneously and make each other stronger. I am less when I separate those two worlds in me. I achieve less by breaking myself into tiny digestible parts for people. I figure I was failing at being a good Writer and a good Content Manager because I was showing up as a half-assed version of myself.
I am learning I am capable of so much more than I used to allow for myself. I’m learning I can actually fly and not just dream about it. I’m learning I can climb higher and see things I never thought possible. I’m learning I naturally take up a lot of space and I need to start acting like it. You can’t compartmentalize me. Shit, I can’t compartmentalize myself. The only way I can create good work is by showing up as my full self.
So, thank you for being here with me to bear witness.
I’ll talk to you next week.