Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"You Have To Own It" ~ My Lesson Learned From #Hispz12

I've worked in Corporate America for more than a decade.  I've always been the minority.  The receptionist, the secretary - the person no one wants to hear from.  The person whose opinion does not matter.

And being a Creative Writing major in Graduate School?  I am still the minority.  Even though my school is in Harlem.  While I've been told my writing is good, I've heard how much harder it will be for me to get published - because I'm Latina.

And whenever I go into any kind of meeting for The Boy, I'm treated as if my thoughts regarding my own child mean nothing.

So it's easy to feel, well...?  As if no one is listening.  And that what I have to say - doesn't matter.  

I mean, this blog started out as a class assignment.  And out of 30 students in my class? Only 3 people read it - including my professor (he was grading me, after all).

So when I was invited to speak on a panel - Blogging for Cause - at Hispanicize 2012.  I was surprised.  Because...who the hell am I?  

I walked into the JW Marriot, not knowing a single person in real life - not even my roommate.

It was overwhelming those first few hours.  A whirlwind of fabulous Latino bloggers,  journalists, philanthropists, film makers, writers, celebrities, media folks - all jam packed into one place.  I don't think I've ever been in a room with so many influential Latinos.  It was truly inspiring. 

And then there was me?  And I thought to myself, "I have no business being here."

I'm not a professional.  I don't get paid for writing this.  It's just something I do, because I like to write.  It's a distraction for many things.  And since I don't have the time or the energy to focus on writing fiction - this blog, keeps me writing.  

I know why this blog is important to me.  But I never considered it to be important to anyone else.  

Sure there were bloggers that I had established an on line relationship but I can be painfully shy.  I'm not the kind of person to walk up to a stranger and say "Hi!  My name is...blah blah blah."  No matter how many comments we've exchanged on line.  And I could quite easily hold up a wall.

So when I started to mingle and introduce myself, I was hesitant.  Assuming that no one in that room had ever even heard of me and my little blog.   

Obviously, it's a great big blogosphere, so there were people who did not know me.  But they were interested in talking to me.

Then there were the ones who knew of me.  Like AngelicaBrenEva and Aurelia - who greeted me with open arms, telling me how happy they were to meet me.  And in my head I'm all like, "Seriously?  Me?" 

And then I met a mom blogger (I'm not tagging her because I don't think she writes publicly about her son) who cried when she met me.  We hugged and cried for a good ten minutes.  Then I met another mom blogger (again, not tagging because I don't believe she writes about her son) who said "Had it not been for your blog, I would have never known what to look for."  I don't even have the words to say how moved I was by these two women and listening to them speak about their children.  And there were a few more mom bloggers who had children on the spectrum, who I connected with.

Even after all this, I still had that feeling of not belonging.  

And then on the second day, after lunch a few us were sitting around chatting with Piera aka Jolly Mom.  We had attended her session earlier in the day and were picking her brain.  I expressed some of my insecurity.  And she said five words I'll never forget:  You have to own it.

I knew she was right.  I don't own what I do.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in what I'm writing.  And I believe that my writing is good.  But I am too quick to dismiss it.  I am too quick to think that I don't have a place within the blogosphere.  And I've been suppressed for so long in other aspects of my life, I find it hard to believe that my voice matters.  

My three days at Hispanicize, I learned that it does.  

I want The Boy to believe in himself and take pride in the things he does well.  I want him to be confident and know that he has a place in this world.  I want him to own whatever it is that he does.  

How can I expect these things from The Boy when I have such a hard time expecting it of myself?   

I have to look in the mirror and raise my own expectations.  I have to get out of my own way.  I have to assure myself that my voice matters.  That this blog matters.  And I have to own it.

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.