One morning when I was in the third grade, my mother and I were working our way down the stairs of our apartment building. We were living in the cold ass Bronx in a third-floor apartment, and while I had walked myself to school in Puerto Rico during the first and second grade, there was no way that was going to be a reality living in the Bronx in the early 90’s.
When we got downstairs, we stumbled across one of our first floor neighbors, a lady who was struggling to put her toddler in a stroller to take her son, who was about my age, to school as well. The moment my mother saw her she told the woman to stop. My mother explained that she was taking me to school as well, and that she was more than happy to take her son with us.
I’m pretty sure we had not met that woman before that moment, and in that moment, that woman could not have been more relieved. So every day for the remainder of our time in New York, if it was a school day, my mother was happy to do this lady the favor of escorting her son safely to school.
One of the things I struggle with daily is what to decide to write and what to decide to share. This story, like so, so, so many others that I have is part of who I am, and it is part of the lessons I’ve learned in my 30+ years of paying attention to the world around me.
People are interesting. They’re complex. They are the summation of their experiences, their heartbreaks and triumphs, and they deserve to have their stories heard. They deserve to be acknowledged, respected, and remembered, and I want to preserve the stories of the people that I’ve known.
But people are also flawed, myself wholly included. We make mistakes, harsh decisions and are resistant to change. I have a long list of people who I’d wish would receive a rude awakening. But I also have very specific points in my life where I’ve wished, wholeheartedly, that I could turn back time and do it all over again.
One of the things I struggle with the most is sharing personal stories that paint others in an unflattering light. The New York Diaries was my attempt at that, and to this day I’m still on the fence about leaving all those stories open to the public. It was a hard time for me, and I wanted to show friends and family that I did not disappear because I was too busy partying it up in New York. But… exposing my trauma for all to see?
Yes, its cathartic to get it off your chest, but the internet is written not in pencil, but in ink, and once those stories are out there, they’re essentially out there forever. In any story, there are monsters and sociopaths who deserve to be exposed for what they are. But then there are many others who are simply flawed, stunted, or just fucking dumb. I don’t know what 45 year-old me will feel about exposing them and potentially humiliating them, and I’m still not comfortable making this decision for her.
For a long time, my compromise was to write in notebooks, and I was content with the idea of someone finding my notebooks and publishing them long after I’m dead and there’s no consequences, but I’ve just learned the hard way that notebooks are not impervious to water or fire. My other compromise is fiction, and even then I feel like I’ll never be done.
So, why do I write?
I write to share experiences.
I write because I think it matters.
I write because I want to inspire others, even if it means my own family.
I write because it’s what I love.
I write so that when people look at my work, they see what it’s like to pull yourself up by your bootstraps so often that they snap in your face, over and over and you keep doing it because it’s what you want.
I write so that people will look at my work and think, this is what happens when you make bold decisions. This is what happens to people on a microsocial level in certain environments. This is what happens when there aren’t appropriate systems in place. This is the life of someone who doesn’t look like me, who comes from a reality different than mine, and who sees the world differently than I do. Or better, this is the life of someone who looks like me, who comes from a very similar reality, and who sees the world the same way I do.
But I don’t like to write to hurt others.
I don’t like to write to be scandalous or salacious.
I don’t write for attention, or page hits or to go viral. The idea of it makes me feel like I’m having a panic attack.
I write for the people I love, to show them that I did listen, and that, at the very least, someone will remember me long after I’m gone.