2022: My Year of Rest

Mental Health

When I left the classroom in the summer of 2020 I thought the relief would be immediate. I thought my body would sense this newfound safety. That it would relinquish the worry and dead weight. That rest would come easy.

It did not come easy.

In fact, it didn’t come at all.

Instead, I took all of that anxious energy I’d been swimming in for four and a half years (really, the past decade) and channelled it into writing as much as I possibly could. I wrote two picture books, the first installment in a new middle grade series, a novel-in-verse, and an early graphic novel. All while revising my sophomore YA and promoting my debut.

I worked seven days a week because I could. Because that’s what I was used to after a decade of writing alongside full-time work. 60 hours a week was my baseline. My brain didn’t know how to do anything else. It didn’t even want to try.

And it was easy to justify the hours I was spending in front of my laptop because everyone online seemed to be doing the same. They were taking up knitting and learning a new language and losing weight and using lockdown as an opportunity to “win” at life, which shouldn’t be a game to begin with. Specifically, within the writing community, I felt this pressure to produce even more acutely. Because even though people were often tweeting about the importance of slowing down and giving yourself grace because we were in the middle of a pandemic for christ’s sake those tweets were often followed by celebratory screenshots of how many words they’d managed to write that day.

It was frustrating and yet it fueled me because it validated this need to overwork that I’d been cultivating my entire life. Since I was a student striving for all As. Since I was a recent college graduate working on building my self-publishing career. Since I was a teacher arriving early and staying late; spending my weekends grading and lesson planning, and oh yeah, working on my debut novel.

But recently, something has unraveled in me.

Maybe it’s the past two years of watching our government treat people as though they’re expendable. Maybe it’s the past two years of watching individuals treat each other with the same disdain. But I see capitalism as the disease that it is. I see all of the ways it’s made me sick while pretending to be the very medicine meant to make me well.

I’ve realized that rest is radical and that it’s not something you earn it’s something you take. Something you steal. Something you fight for tooth and nail.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I’m scrapping my production plan, the five books I was going to write this year paused indefinitely. Instead, I’m pouring myself into a single project, I’m committing to a reduced schedule, and I’m going to see what happens when I prioritize something other than work.

What happens to my career.

What happens to my mind.

My body.

My spirit.


You Have the Money

Marketing & Promotion, Mental Health

This past weekend was the third weekend in a row that I didn’t let myself do any work. My attempt at resting on the weekends has been a year-long journey, full of starts and stops, and many anxiety-ridden days where I failed to just be still. But rest, like everything, takes practice.

Stepping away from the work, even for short periods of time, is scary for me. But just because it makes me anxious and jittery and irritable doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And the good news? Those feelings do subside. Over time. After trying and failing and trying again. It gets easier.

What has also helped is coming to the realization that this need to hustle, to grind, to work myself to the bone, isn’t my true nature. It’s something that’s been shoved down my throat; forced onto my identity. It’s who capitalism wants me to be…but it isn’t me.

Now when I think of rest I think of it as a radical act. And I remind myself that I shouldn’t have to sell three books a year just to make it as an author. The financial inequities faced by authors of color in publishing is not a problem that can be fixed by my own overproduction. And that’s the goal, isn’t it? Not just that I can somehow figure out a way to continue writing and publishing full-time but that all authors from marginalized backgrounds can have that same option.

So it’s not on me to fix this. It’s on publishing.


Stop requiring significantly more labor from your marginalized authors in order for them to build careers. Stop putting it on marginalized creators to figure out how to navigate an obviously biased system. Throw out your P&L reports and commit to paying marginalized creators a living wage, not because of the slim chance you can make a return on your investment in a world where books by and about BIPOC are systematically at a disadvantage, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Because achieving equity doesn’t always make financial sense.

Justice doesn’t always turn a profit.

If you’re just a business, make that clear. But if you’re one of those businesses that came out publicly in support of Black lives, of the Latinx community, of the Asian community, and the Muslim community, and every other marginalized community that has experienced violence in recent years due to white supremacy and systemic racism then it’s time for you to give up some of that power you promised you would.

By taking care of the whole author. That means enough money to pay their rent, their bills, their physical and mental healthcare. Enough money to invest, to buy a home, to build wealth.

Take a look at your lists. How many of those authors deserve the chance to be fully supported by their work? How many of those authors could avoid burnout and the negative toll to their physical and mental health if you’d just make that happen? Yes. You.

You who gave a prince 20 million dollars for a memoir. You who gave a white woman with no connection to immigrants from Central America seven figures to write an extremely harmful version of their experiences. You who gave a multi-million dollar deal to a vice president who participated in the eroding of our democracy, in the practice of government sanctioned child abuse at the border, in the spread of misinformation during a deadly pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

You have the money to pay marginalized authors more than a living wage.

You have the money to pay assistants and editors and other publishing professionals what they’re actually worth.

You have the money to create an equitable and compassionate system.

You have the money to do what’s necessary.

You have the money to do what’s right.

So do it.

Absence makes the heart grow

Mental Health, Writing Process

I haven’t written anything in seven weeks.

Those first couple of days were panic-inducing, the week that followed terrifying. Then the terror eased to discomfort and then the discomfort finally gave way to something I haven’t felt in my creative life in so long…peace.

I was resting.

I was letting myself rest.

Something that has felt utterly impossible since becoming an adult. I am a master over-functioner, incredible at multitasking, and lost without my hustle. If I’m not doing, I’m spinning, my mind filling in the idle quiet with nightmare after nightmare until every cell in my body is convinced they’re real.

But here I am, seven weeks since closing scrivener, and I’m not spinning.

I’m not worrying or exhausted or wrecked with guilt.

I’m ready.

I’m excited.

I’m actually looking forward to receiving my edit letter for book two and I can’t wait to dive back into this story. I can’t remember the last time I longed for writing. I don’t think I’ve ever spent enough time away from it to warrant missing it.

But I do. And I’ve come to realize that that longing, that excitement about getting back to work, is a crucial piece of my creative process that has been missing. For years, I’ve been running on empty, sustained by fear and the pressure to produce. But not only is that unsustainable, it’s unkind.

And I deserve kindness.

In my work, in my art, and in my relationships (especially my relationship with myself) I deserve to experience joy. Because it’s as much fuel for creativity as the fear and anxiety and all of the other things that typically propel me forward. Except joy burns so much brighter.

Joy illuminates all the beauty we miss when we’re stuck in a cycle of worry and doubt.

So not only has this time away helped me find the joy in writing again, it’s also expanded my view of my own creative process. It’s taught me that creating and toiling aren’t one and the same and that struggle is not the only sign of progress.

I can make things without breaking some part of me to do it.

I can make things without breaking.


Mental Health, Writing Process

Usually when people talk about the importance of rest, I’m like…who?

I listen when people tell me it’s important. I try to convince myself of it too. But every weekend and every evening I have the same tug-of-war with myself over whether I’m actually willing to put it into practice.

I blame this on a few things. First, my father was self-employed and worked constantly. Second, my grandfather worked on a farm until his late 70s. Third, there is nothing my Mexican-America family shit-talks about more than people who are “lazy.” Fourth, being a teacher taught me to abuse myself in so many ways, including overworking. Fifth, being hyper productive is a symptom of my anxiety.

Overworking has been the norm in my life but it’s also a characteristic that has been passed down through generations. Other Latinx people, other BIPOC, and other descendants of immigrants may recognize this need to over perform and how it often stems from viewing the U.S. as a meritocracy even though it isn’t one. There’s this false belief among BIPOC, as well as white supremacists, that only BIPOC with certain characteristics have value.

We’ve seen this bullshit opinion in the national discourse as recent as this week.

And it’s this notion that reinforces the fact that BIPOC must be perfect in order to be accepted. We have to be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. We have to be the model employee who never asks for a raise and never complains about what we’re getting paid. We have to do the work no one else wants to do. We have to be polite and full of gratitude.

We have to adopt western affinities for capitalism even though it’s killing us. We have to work ourselves to the bone in the hopes that our children may be able to move up a single rung on the ladder of success. We must rid ourselves of our own definition of success and adopt someone else’s. Then we must strive for it until the day we die.

When my father died, what impacted me the most was all of things he never got to do. He never got to retire. He never got to rest.

It haunts me.

But there’s another apparition; other ghosts that send a chill down my spine. My ancestors–every person who has come before me and worked and worked and worked so that I could be higher up on the ladder. How can I tell them that the ladder isn’t real? That I’m getting off. That I don’t want to play this game anymore.

I want to step off the ladder.

I want to smash it to pieces and set it on fire so no other family can hang their hopes on it. So no other person can cling to it with white knuckles. So no other person can feel like a failure.

A failure.

I feel the words against my ear. Another ghost. Warning me not to step off the ladder. Pleading with me to climb higher. To carry the people I love on my back.

But I want to rest, I think. I just want to rest.

Rest, they say. Who is that?

Dear White Family

Mental Health

Dear White Family,

We haven’t spoken in a while and today I’m stepping out on this splintered, disease-ridden olive branch, to tell you why. Why I haven’t called, why I haven’t emailed, why I haven’t responded to your texts and DMs. Why I haven’t come home for the holidays and sat around the dinner table listening to your stories about the “Good Old Days” when things weren’t so “complicated,” your coded language a series of incessant bee stings that no salve in the world could keep from turning into scars.

This is what I’ve been doing in my time away–counting the scars and remembering every single person who gave them to me. But instead of going down the list of every microaggression, every racist act or comment I was subjected to as a brown child in your white family, I want to talk about a future hurt. I want to talk about November.

You love this country. You love the Republican party. You love your God. And you say…you love me.

Here are some other things you say:

“Racism doesn’t exist.”

“Mexicans are criminals and rapists.”

“Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group.”

“Immigrants are dirty.”

“Why can’t they just learn to speak English?”

“Build the wall.”

I have heard these things come out of your mouths. I have seen you post them in Meme form on Facebook. A version of reality that you claim is more real and more true than the one your brown grandaughter/niece/cousin lives in. Because when you say “racism doesn’t exist” you erase the harm that has been done to me and other BIPOC by white supremacists. And when you say “Mexicans are criminals and rapists” you are calling me, someone you claim to love, a criminal and a rapist. When you say “immigrants are dirty” you are declaring my immigrant ancestors sub-human and rewriting history as if your own immigrant ancestors did not exist, or if they did, that they were somehow superior. When you say “build the wall” you insinuate that I am taking up space I don’t deserve to be.

“But I’m not racist,” you argue. “I don’t think you should go back to Mexico. I love you.”

You don’t.

Because that would require seeing my whole self, accepting every part of who I am, and embracing my identity in its fullest expression. But you only want me in bits and pieces. In photographs you can show your friends and coworkers to prove you are a good person who values all people. But a photograph, like your “love” for me, is purely one-dimensional.

If you loved me, not only would you believe me when I tell you that racism exists, that I have been the victim of it, but you would be disgusted on my behalf. You would take action. You would attempt to use your white privilege to shield me from harm.

If you loved me you wouldn’t argue when I tell you that sometimes you were the perpetrator of this racism. You would feel ashamed. You would apologize. You would devote yourself to being anti-racist.

If you loved me, not only would you believe me when I tell you that the current president wants me dead, that he actively encourages white supremacists to take my life and the lives of other Black and brown people, but you would be enraged on my behalf. You would wrestle with the same fear and worry I do over the safety and wellbeing of my loved ones. You would reject this monster and the evil that he represents.

When I was still a teenager, many of you promised my father on his deathbed that you would take care of me. Then many of you disappeared as if I was the brown stain on the ivory family tapestry that could finally be scrubbed away. Some of you made a promise you knew you would break.

But some of you still think that you love me.

Honestly, I desperately wish it were true.

I wish you were willing to accept my reality as easily and wholeheartedly as you accept your own. I wish you ached every time the world disparaged me because of the color of my skin. I wish it sickened you to hear how people speak about my culture.

I wish it mattered to you that I’m in pain.

But if it did, you would be in pain too.

Except you’re not and that’s the real proof that you have never loved me. Because loving a brown child when you are not means taking on all the joys and pains of that child’s experiences. It means moving through life with them even when it’s full of thorns. Holding their hand as the two of you are pricked over and over and over again. Weathering storm after storm even though you could easily find shelter elsewhere.

Admit to yourself that you prefer to be sheltered. That your own comfort is paramount. That you would rather “love” me from a distance than step into the arena with me.

I don’t get to step out of the arena.

I don’t get to put down my armor.

I don’t get to rest.

Because the world is waiting to devour me and if you vote for Trump in November, you are no longer my family, but just another wide open mouth.