Week 4: Bad Ideas in White Hollywood

There is no such thing as perfect writing. (Except maybe books written by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, but I’m biased because I think I’m a little in love with her. But, honestly, who isn’t?) But there is some terrible writing and even worse plots that even I, a bad writer with no formal writing training and even lesser talent, would never dream of writing down.

I’m going to talk some much-needed shit about shows and movies starring primarily white people, written by mostly white people. This is not an exhaustive list, just some off the top of my brain. Trust me, I could write a whole series about where white Hollywood fucks up and can do better. But I’ll keep it short and start with these more recent titles.

PIVOTING

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Set in Long Island, N.Y., three women — and close-knit childhood friends — cope with the death of the fourth member of their group. When faced with the reality that life is short, these women pivot and alter their current paths through a series of impulsive, ill-advised, and self-indulgent decisions. These pivots strengthen their bond and prove it’s never too late to screw up one’s life in the pursuit of happiness. “Pivoting” takes a real look at three intelligent, empowered, and seemingly enlightened women who decide to hit the reset button. For all three of these women, the untimely and heartbreaking death of their friend was the wake-up call they didn’t know they needed, but it might just be the thing that helps them live their best lives.” – Google

I really wanted to like this show. It seemed like a fun feminist show, but unfortunately, that’s precisely what it was – a show for white and white adjacent women. Maybe younger me wouldn’t have minded watching yet another show about the lives of white women, but current me is struggling to breathe among all this content directed towards and for white women. Frankly, the white women’s privilege in this show is suffocating.

I think Ginnifer Goodwin (Jodie) is so cute,, and I love to watch her on-screen. But I hate the character she plays and how desperate she is to get railed by her trainer because her husband neglects her. It’s a tragic play on the “desperate housewife” stereotype, and it’s sad watching her degrade herself for another man’s attention. The unfortunate part is that the trainer isn’t attracted to her; it’s a one-way street. But I get it; I’ve also been that desperate for someone’s touch before. I wish someone would just shake her and say, “BITCH, YOU DON’T NEED NO MAN!” And if her husband ain’t putting it down, maybe she should slip him a copy of She Comes First by Ian Kerner.

Jodie is used to denying herself joy, not standing up for herself, and lying to coast through this patriarchal society. White women can do that to protect themselves from sexism because they’re not oppressed by their skin color or culture in the U.S. The part where Jodie is white is not upsetting. It’s that she’s so unaware of her privilege in society that she lives in the shell of the person people expect her to be as a wife/mother: subservient, dainty, not sexual, tight-lipped. Jodie, who is “closer” to ‘liberation” than BIPOC women in the U.S. is actually crippled by her oppression of being a woman in a white-male-dominated world. I think I just expected more dimension from that character.

I expected more from the “full-time working mom” trope as well. Amy’s sudden guilt for choosing work over her family had awkward moments. First, her nanny is Black. The first Black character I notice…and she’s a nanny. I expect more by now. I also didn’t see any Latinx characters, but this isn’t about me. This is about this show’s poor execution. Second, Amy kind of treats her kids like an accessory. Having kids was just “something you did,” like going to college and getting a job. I’m 100% for the woman who puts her career first and can have a family, but I cannot believe she relied on her nanny to do everything. Amy’s character reminds me of the rich absentee-Dad trope used in white Hollywood. Just because it’s a woman now doesn’t make it any better.

JUST GO WITH IT

(MORE LIKE, JUST STOP)

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His heart recently broken, plastic surgeon Danny Maccabee (Adam Sandler) pretends to be married so he can enjoy future dates with no strings attached. His web of lies works, but when he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) — the gal of his dreams — she resists involvement. Instead of coming clean, Danny enlists Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), his assistant, to pose as his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Instead of solving Danny’s problems, the lies create more trouble.” – Google

I’m not going hard for this movie, but it was on last night, so it’s still fresh in my mind. The first time I watched it, I laughed so hard – I loved it. It was hilarious. Nick Swardson’s German sheep farmer character will probably always be my favorite Nick Swardson besides Terry Bernadino from Reno 911! However, the last 30 minutes I semi-watched were super cringy. What’s worse is I was remarkably sober. I got to see this poor excuse of a rom-com for what it indeed was: trash. I’ll skip over the details, but here’s a high-level interpretation:

  • normalization of colonization in Hawai’i – First of all, Brown and Black people travel to Hawai’i, too, and stay in fancy resorts. Second, in 2022, white people at a fancy resort in Hawai’i is not only disgusting, it’s heavily discouraged. No one should be traveling to Hawai’i at the moment and looking at how normal it was for white folks to do that in 2011 is embarassing.
  • the stereotype of an older man and a younger “dream girl”– Adam Sandler, get a new trope! This stereotype is so overused and leads to an unrealistic ideal for not so hot older men. Let’s be real, Palmer was a straight up 10 dating a solid 5. Yes, he has plastic surgeon money, meaning he’s probably a smart guy. They wrote Palmer as a naive young woman who can be manipulating into believing anything a man says. It’s a misogynist fantasy and it’s gross.
  • the normalization of men being manipulative to protect their emotions – Why is this Danny guy such a liar? Let’s talk about the deceit. This man has been playing women because he’s too scared to be hurt, so that somehow makes it okay for him to manipulative handfuls of women into dating him. The protrayl of this behavior with no consequences makes folks believe this kind of dating tactic is normal and okay, when in fact it’s not.
  • the Palmer character – She’s smart, she’s cute, she’s young, she’s hot. She’s everything Danny wants, yet somehow she falls for his lies and is okay with him taking his ex-wife on vacation with them. Palmer should have been pissed. And then, why would she agree to marry him and ask his ‘ex-wife’ later if they’re still into each other because you’ve noticed the sexual tension. What? Who wrote this? In what fantasy world is a monogamous couple okay with that. I would have believed it more if Palmer or Danny were openly polyamorous. But that was never implied, so Palmer just willingly agreed to marry an older man who was undeniably in love with another woman. And Palmer was okay with that.

MOXIE

FEMINISM (AND PUNK ROCK) SAVED MY LIFE

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Inspired by a confident new friend and her mother’s rebellious past, a shy teenager publishes an anonymous zine calling out sexism at her school.” – IMDb.com

I’ll start with the most obvious missed point: the story focuses on a white girl’s perspective who builds off the feminist work of an outspoken brown Latinx queer girl. The white girl lives safely under the guise of white supremacy, allowing her to escape racial and queer oppression and see gender oppression as a thing of the past. But when she sees a brown girl standing up against the oppression she is facing, the white girl feels inspired to speak up in her own way – by publishing an anonymous zine. Unfortunately, this story feels all too familiar. While Moxie’s goal was to bring awareness to the power one feels when they discover feminism, they shed light on how white women profit off Black & Brown women’s creative expression or acts of revolution without their consent.

Now let’s dig into the most apparent symbolism for white feminism: the fact that the mom can tuck her little box of feminism away in a closet and live a reasonably normal life. How is she able to put feminism away so quickly like that? Because she’s white and she is protected by white men. Black, Indigenous, and Women of color don’t get that same privilege. Black, Indigenous, and Women of color can’t separate the discrimination of being a non-white person in the U.S. from being a woman in the U.S. So, the mom can easily pack her feminism away and easily survive without it. I, however, cannot do that. I need feminism to survive.

And I’m not talking about this white-washed version of feminism. No, I’m talking about the Cherríe Moraga, bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Audre Lorde kind of feminism. The Latina Rebels kind of feminism. The kind of feminism that brings you out of gender oppression for the first time and wakes you the fuck up. The kind of feminism that includes all women and not just the cisgender white ones. This is where this movie failed: it failed to sincerely acknowledge how feminism is intersectional. Yes, there were diverse characters, but they served as props to move the plot along to support the white girl’s prerogative. I’m simply very tired of this narrative.

There were so many missed opportunities in this movie, but I’ll leave it here with these two main points: white women are still painfully unaware of how they rip off BIWOC, and I wish this movie had more Black & Brown girls perspectives than a white girls’ perspective. But that’s precisely what white feminism does, doesn’t it? It only serves white cisgender women. It’s not always convenient for differently-abled or queer or trans white women, and it hella ain’t convenient for any BIWOC. To sum it up, Moxie was a movie that catered to a white feminist’s perspective. I was largely disappointed by this movie, minus the soundtrack and styling choices. Big win there. Big fail everywhere else. (Maybe not casting; it’s not the actors’ fault.)

Disclaimer: I watched this movie while having alcoholic drinks when it came out in early 2021. I took notes while watching because I had high hopes, but I was immediately let down, as you can see. And no, I will not be re-watching this movie…ever.)


It’s not enough that this content for white people exists and is actually popular; it’s that some of the only good shows with Latinx characters were canceled recently, and that hurts. Unfortunately, that hurt a lot of us consumers of the entertainment arts. Someone on Twitter pointed out how while good Latinx shows are being canceled, shows about narcos are thriving. It reminds me of the low expectations imposed on us by this country. They expect so little from us and continue to take away the things that normalize our humanity, like citizenship documents, the rights to live on this land, or TV shows and movies that represent a real Latinx experience. It’s almost like they want us to feel like we don’t belong here.

Yet, we exist here in many colors, shapes, sizes, y culturas. And we have beautiful movies like Encanto, In the Heights, and Coco streaming on Disney+, which lets me know that at least the younger kids know that we are here and not going anywhere. We are part of this country—hell, we helped build this country! And even though there isn’t much mainstream visibility for Latinx folks, at least we have our indie art scenes.

But that makes me wonder about other people who don’t see themselves represented on TV. Do they feel othered like I did? I’m sure the answer is yes. This is what makes streaming so vital for representation. We get to choose what to watch and when to watch it. We don’t have to wait for a primetime television network to tell us when and what to watch. We get to choose for ourselves. And I like to choose TV and movies to watch with characters that look, feel, and think like me.

Here’s a list of good TV shows starring BIWOC I actually recommend:

Real-life woes with a lot of laughs:

  • Girlfriends
  • Black-ish
  • Grown-ish
  • Insecure
  • On My Block
  • Girlfriends
  • The Sex Lives of College Girls
  • Abbott Elementary
  • Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens

Lots of crying, but also lots of joy:

  • Pose
  • On My Block
  • Gentefied
  • One Day At A Time

A little drama, but excellent writing:

  • Charmed (the new one)
  • She’s Gotta Have It
  • Good Trouble
  • The Fosters
  • Never Have I Ever
  • Station 19
  • How To Get Away With Murder

The pen holds a lot of power, like the keyboard, typewriter, script, camera, and direction. People have a huge responsibility to tell ethical stories – stories that are truthful, uplifting, worthy, and reflective of the human experience. It’s a shame we continue to get these poor excuses of storytelling in Hollywood and in the literary world (think American Dirt). We believe every story matters, but I hate to say that they really don’t, especially not the ones told from a white lens – we have enough of those. These stories have a responsibility to appeal to more than the white gaze.

I had the pleasure of being part of a book club (Fine Ass Book Club) that prioritized reading books written by BIWOC. This was the first time in my life where I felt really seen. And this book club, composed of beautiful BIWOC intellectuals and writers, gave me the space I never knew I needed to fully blossom. This is where Libreria Book Bar was born. I had always wanted to open a cafe or a bar; I lacked the vision and niche. When I started reading these books, I found myself drawn to bars and cafes that had comfortable seating, low lights, and a quiet atmosphere so I could sit quietly and read. It was one of my favorite weekend ventures. And when the book club would look for cute local cafes and spaces to meet, I yearned to build a space that catered to us, Black, Indigenous, and women of color. I dreamt of shelves full of the books we read in our Fine Ass Book Club.

This is how we stand up against white-male supremacy. Call out this bullshit. Build new spaces. Invest in BIWOC stories. Invest in other Black, Indigenous, and people of color. This is how I will make a difference: by building a world where BIPOC perspectives are standard and the most valued.

Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk. See you next week, bitches, and thanks for hanging on this long. You’re appreciated!

xo,
lola

Hand drawn skull and cross bones with heart eyes.

Disclaimer: TV shows and movies I left out that are just as problematic: And Just Like That, The Kissing Booth (1-3), Shameless, Wandavision, and many, many more.

Week 3: You Gotta Embrace All of You

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.

xo,
Lola

Hand drawn skull and cross bones with heart eyes.

Week 2: Tackling Impostor Syndrome One Paragraph at a Time

I struggle with finishing writing projects. I’ll get a new idea, get lost in my head about not being good enough to execute my own vision, and then convince myself out of working on that project. Most of my projects involve helping people, so I convince myself I need to be an expert in a subject to write about it. Impostor syndrome is so instilled in me that I gate-keep myself out of the spaces where I belong.

According to Oxford Languages, Impostor Syndrome is “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” One of my favorite writers, Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, adapts Impostor Syndrome for BIWOC in her book, For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts. She explains that we feel impostor syndrome because we’ve been socialized to believe our accomplishments come from an outside force (luck, teamwork, etc.) In addition, we’ve been influenced to think we are “an exception to a cultural rule” because white people’s expectations for us are so low. For example, growing up, older white adults consistently reminded me of how ‘exceptional’ I was for a Mexican. However, they didn’t outright say that; they would just say things like “Happy Mother’s Day” to me when I was a teenager or congratulate me for staying in school.

I grew up having meager expectations for myself even though my family had high expectations. Learn to cook, clean the whole house, take care of the kids, cook for the kids, get good grades in school, be a role model, graduate high school, go to college. I was the second person in my big ass family to graduate high school. We grew up poor in the ‘hood. No one outside of our family had high expectations for us. They expected the girls to be knocked up by 18, the boys in gangs, and the rest of us addicted to drugs. I was the exception to the rule only because I had an abortion (which 90% of my family knew nothing about).

Society having low expectations for me and not having the resources to help me critically think about my future led me down the Psychology path. If I had time to think about who I wanted to be instead of worrying about surviving and getting out of the hood, I would have chosen to be a writer instead of learning about the people who made me feel like shit.

Psychology is still very white and very male-centered. Most of the studies we learn about are based on college students from the 60s-70s. None of my people were in college in the 60s and 70s. I never saw myself in Psychology. Looking back, I now understand what Audre Lorde meant when she wrote, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” I was learning about people to help disenfranchised people like me. But I knew I couldn’t do it with the Eurocentric-American-White-People Bullshit tools they gave me.


TECHNICALLY, I’M A TECHNICAL WRITER

I feel like an impostor writing a “Healthy Relationships 101” handbook for young people. Where is my credibility besides my excellent partner? Who else can testify that I practice healthy relationship patterns? I know all this stuff from having survived an unhealthy relationship and doing the work myself. I am a living example of what professional help and education can do for a survivor. But I still don’t feel qualified to write on these subjects because I have nothing tangible to show for it.

What’s even wilder than me thinking that is the fact that I actually do have a technical writer background. I wrote handfuls of educational workshops for 13-18-year-old teens, developed and copyedited complete Operations Training manuals for management teams. For the last 3 years, I’ve been writing about sneakers, athletic wear, and accessories almost every day. I am more than qualified to dissect complex information and make it palatable for folks to read effortlessly. I have receipts, baby, so why am I so pressed about writing this book?

I hold my own damn self back by not valuing my work because I only have a Bachelor’s degree. I keep thinking, I didn’t specialize in anything. How am I supposed to teach others? How can I make an impact without a Master’s or a certification? I keep thinking about those white people with PhDs and degrees in no se que who might devalue my work before it gets its footing. I keep thinking my work is for them, but really it’s not.

I reached out to my community on Instagram and filled them in on my dilemma. I asked, how do I reconcile feeling like an impostor writing about what I’ve learned in my field? This is fundamentally what they said:

My community showed up and reminded me that just sharing what I know is enough. Community knowledge. Un consejo. I don’t need to be an expert in the human experience in its entirety to warn young people about abusive people and how to intervene in red flag situations. I just have to be passionate about helping people avoid bad relationships.

My work isn’t for post graduates. It isn’t for experts. My work is for the general community who doesn’t have access to or want to pursue academia. My work is for those that need it.


Do you see what I just did there? I showed you my technical writing and design skills. I summed up about 8 messages from different friends on Instagram and packaged them neatly into this graphic gallery. Not only is it a cute aesthetic, but it’s also intentional, easy to read, and to the point. I didn’t have to do all that, but I wanted to because this is what I love doing.


GATE-KEEPING

When you really sit back and think about it, we wouldn’t know a lot if it wasn’t for one brave person who decided to share what they learned by experience. We know what foods to avoid, what to eat to nourish our bodies, what plants to use to get high because some individuals dared to explore. They weren’t worried about whether people believed them. They just needed to share the knowledge.

In today’s society, most people have to pay to learn new things because 1) teaching is labor, but also because 2) knowledge sets people free. Keeping people disenfranchised is the number one way to exploit them. This is why the United States doesn’t offer free higher education, only free K-12 education. They teach the kind of education that conveniently forgets to teach kids to think for themselves and forces obedience. As much as I hate to admit, Academia teaches you how to critically think, but if people have to choose to pay for that or basic necessities, they’ll always choose survival.

At 22 years old, I couldn’t afford to buy a Master’s degree without knowing my career goals. I couldn’t afford to put myself in more debt without knowing if this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Twenty-two years old was far too young for me to settle into what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I wasn’t ready to go into debt for learning how to be a therapist; I decided to get real-world experience instead.

The natural progression for someone who has a Psychology degree is graduate school or certification. However, just having a Bachelor’s in Psychology is practically worthless. I basically paid $20 g’s for a degree just for some for-profit “non-profit” to exploit me and pay me $30 g’s a year to do the job of 2 executives. Doing Psychology work is brutal. But working in the Psychology field is even crueler. I decided working one-on-one with people just wasn’t for me. It was rewarding but emotionally exhausting.

So, what do I do with everything I’ve learned as an undergraduate, a mentor, a youth educator? Corporate America would say, “Get a job in that field.” But Spirit tells me, “Tell the world what you know.” The happy medium is making a little money from the labor I put into compiling, citing, and disseminating resources.

But then there’s a little voice in my head that’s separate from Spirit, and she tells me to stay in my lane. Actually, it’s a male voice. And he tells me I’m not smart enough to create this content. He stands in the front of the golden iron gates of publishing and tells me, “No one will want to read this crap.” He reminds me of lacking credentials and all the paths I didn’t take in education, making me unqualified for writing about human behavior.

No one in real life kept the gates closed because I wasn’t even coming around to knock for opportunities. Remember those low expectations society had for me? Well, turns out that tactic worked. I’m not sure what planets shifted last year, but it really woke me up. I came face to face with the reality that no one was holding me back except me. I was not an impostor; I was a gatekeeper.

All this is to say that knowledge is power. And I’ve always been about empowering people through whatever work I do: mentoring, teaching, writing. I live to uplift and support my community. I am not an exception to the rule; I am the rule. The women in my community have taught me, mentored me, uplifted me, and so much more. We are exceptional people, not because society tells us we aren’t, but because we’ve survived and fought against colonization, racism, and sexism. And we continue to do this every day.

I am not an impostor. I am a survivor and that gives me more than enough ground to write about survivorship and help others with my work…

Thank you for coming to my TED talk. I’ll see you next week. 🖤

(c) All images included in this post are property of lola hernandez. Images created using www.canva.com.

Week 1: I Suck At Writing

I still remember the day I decided I wanted to be a writer. My 5th-grade class was on a field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and I loved everything about these paintings. For our Language exercise, our teacher, Ms. H, asked us to pick any art piece in that gallery and write down the first things that came to mind: a poem, a paragraph, a sentence, anything. So naturally, as a sad 10-year-old, I gravitated to this dark blue, melancholy painting with a single boat braving a storm. It reminded me that life can feel that way; sometimes, we can barely hang on. When Ms. H came over to read the poem I wrote, she teared up. “Wow, you’re a natural writer,” she praised. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer.

Well, here we are two decades later, and I feel like I never showed up to my own coming-out party as a writer. I wrote secret poetry for a whole decade because I thought it was lame, and then I wrote crappy public poetry for the last decade. I never took any classes to get better or read books to learn the craft. I wrote decent essays covering deep spiritual and emotional topics in school, but I always just scratched the surface. I never really pushed myself to experiment with a different language and sentence structures. I was a basic ass biscuit because I never owned the craft; I never saw myself as a worthy writer.

What would a coming-out party for a writer look like anyway? I’d probably invite some friends over for chilled red wine, set out some hard and soft cheeses with deli meat and multi-grain crackers. I’d set the mood with a playlist featuring my favorite writers: Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Jhené Aiko, and Kali Uchis. Light some candles, burn some incense, smudge a little sage, and blaze it up. Yep, I’d go all out. Sometime during our soiree, I’d turn the music down, thank everyone for coming, and talk about my new self-published zine, titled Brain Chemistry. Then I’d recite a poem titled Brain Chemistry that coincidentally did not make the cut for the zine. My friends would applaud, and I would see not one family member in my tiny apartment living room because they wouldn’t be invited. I keep my writing hidden from the family unless they get really cool about revealing our family’s history of mental illness, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. So, I guess the real question is, should I just stay in the closet?

Even as I write this, doubt pours down into each fingertip. Am I choosing the right words? Do I sound like I know where I’m going with this? Does this read well? Do people even care to read this? All I should be thinking about is writing these thoughts into words. Writing is giving craft, and it will take all of you if you really want to be in it. People will ask what you’ve written, published or not, and god-willing, you must share it. That’s how other people get to know you as a writer. I struggle with being a writer because I fear people will read my work and hate it.

This is where that old-age saying about taking risks comes into play. I can’t be a known writer, or an established writer, without having something to show for it, like published essays in popular writing outlets or listicles on popular websites. Whenever I told myself to make that deadline, pitch that idea, post something on http://www.lolalapoeta.com, I’d conveniently forget or hate my first draft and quit. I don’t ever jump, so how will I ever know if I can fly?


After writing my first poem, I put the idea away of writing for quite some time. It was a passing thought, for I had bigger dreams than that. I wanted to be a teacher, marine biologist, or something more remarkable than a broke-ass writer. But I still wrote poems; in fact, I kept a journal to process my feelings and document my little life.

When the internet started booming in 2003, I came across a social media site whose name always slips my mind. I think because I would instead not remember what I posted there. Something with an X or Z. Users could create an account, upload, and share whatever they wanted-images, music, videos, writing. I posted my preteen poems on that website, under the username darlingnikki.

I never told anyone I had an account. I never told anyone I wrote poems. I never wanted anyone I knew to read the poems I wrote.

But I grew as a writer, thanks to Honors and AP English Lit. I wrote essays that inspired people, opened their minds, and even changed perspectives. When asked to write about a prominent historical figure, I chose Bob Marley. When asked to write a persuasive essay about changing a law, I essayed on the legalization of marijuana. Not only was I clearly a stoner in high school, but I was also passionate about my sharing my viewpoints. I was in my element when writing about things I loved.

I decided to turn inward and start writing essays about myself. When I was 15 years old, I was already having sex, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, and trying amphetamines. I wanted to write my stories. I wanted to write about my tragic first relationship, the story about how my parents wouldn’t let me be with the love of my life. I wanted to write about my controlling mother, how all she did was make me miserable by not allowing me to make my own decisions. I wanted to write about how everything would be great one day. I wished everything I was writing about to be a distant memory and not anything close to reality.

I decided I would write a romance story without reading anything more than a heartbreak piece in my high-school Literature textbook. I chose to rewrite my story and started writing the story of Mark and Lisa, star-crossed lovers who couldn’t be together because he was a Taurus, a bad sign for Lisa’s mother. Sappy, right? It was half-true. My mom mentioned once that all Taurus men were terrible, so when she found out my boyfriend was a Taurus, she got upset. I wrote that into my little fiction love story, teetering between fact and fiction. That was fine, right?

No, it was, in fact, not OK with my mom. So, naturally, I was an idiot. I was 15 years old, and I let my mother read an essay on how she did my relationship wrong. No, my friends. She was not happy with what the story suggested, even less impressed with my writing style. She called it “mediocre.” If that wasn’t a blow to my self-esteem, she tried to make up for it by saying it doesn’t read like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or Dickinson. It felt like she wanted my work to be more American, more white-American. I refused to let her read anything else after that.

That is until 2019.

I wrote an excellent piece for raisingmothers.com, where I shared my experience of having an abortion at 16 years old. It was even reviewed and edited by Elisabet Velasquez, one of my favorite writers. She really elevated my work on this platform. I was incredibly proud to have gotten this far in my writing without proper writing training and education in Literature. I wove in my mother’s coming-of-age story with my own and turned it into a beautiful and touching essay, so I thought.

I shared the essay with my mother, and she replied, “It’s good, but most of that is fiction, right?”


And so, the question still begs, do I continue to share my work publicly when the people I’m writing it about don’t care for it?

I guess I can answer my own question now. And the answer is yes. Yes, you should share your work publicly even if your mom, your sisters, or your significant other isn’t reading it. But, remember, you’re writing it for yourself and no one else.

My generation of folks is a beautiful one. We’ve realized that we don’t need to share our work to be validated or successful. Publishing our art is a privilege for others to read, see, hear. And we don’t need to profit from it to be worthy of that craft. So we can keep our work to ourselves and still call ourselves artists/writers, or we can self-publish and still call ourselves artists/writers.

However, that doesn’t change the messages we grew up hearing: find something you like to do, go to college for it, and then find a job in that field. So when it was time to choose a major for college, I chose Journalism because I wanted to write my own love advice column. But I quickly realized you had to change your writing style to meet the expectations of the publication, and well, that didn’t bode well with 16-year-old Lola. So instead I found something I naturally excelled at, reading people, also known as Psychology.

My mom is 10 credits shy of a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. My very Mexican mother is well-versed in white-people stories and loves them. However, I have rarely been a fan of said stories. I can barely get through a white-male-centered story without gagging on the white male privilege littered in every description. She and I have different opinions on what it means to be a writer or be published. But because I’m not educated in Literature, didn’t receive a degree in English, and haven’t published many essays, I don’t feel like a writer. If anything, that’s my mother.

I never wanted to write canon. I never wanted to sound like an old white man. I never wanted to express anything close to what I was reading in school. I yearned for a new sound. To write the way I talk to myself in my head: sassy, funny, charming, clever. I want to write the heart-work, telling gut-wrenching stories about my past, present, and plans for the future. I want to dig out the rotten stories in my family history. I want to shame everyone out of hiding through my work. It sounds harsh, but that’s what good writing does. It reflects the truth, the parts of you that ask to be seen and paid attention to. White canon never reflected my reality.

I think back to the day I felt like a writer for the first time, the validation from a white teacher telling her Mexican student that she is worthy and talented. And I think back to the times my Mexican mom kept it real with me. And I look at all these unpublished essays and stories living on my hard drive, in several different notebooks, and scattered across the digital world. And I know I’m a persistent writer because I’ve been journaling, writing poems, and editing my own essays for the last 20 years. But am I a bad writer?

Sometimes, yes. I write awful first drafts. They remind me of newborn babies, funky-looking and misshapen. But it has potential, right? With a bit of tending to, the work eventually becomes a piece of art. And this is where I am at. I’m a newborn baby writer whose work is a little fugly at the moment but still has great bones.

I guess you can call My Weekly Confessional my official coming-out party. My Weekly Confessional is the space where I’ll come to be an awful writer. Where I’ll confess how much I actually hate this craft while also blowing your mind with the way I sling words together. A word-slinger. I like that. Here is where I’ll be everything but white canon and revel in the beauty of not writing for a specific purpose, to write just because I can.

So, yes, I’m a natural writer, baby. And sometimes I’m a lousy writer, and sometimes I write some pretty fucking cool things. It all comes with the territory, and I’m totally here for it.

xo, lola