You were a challenging year, and for that I am grateful.
[This is meant to serve as an update on some of the larger moments that shaped my past year, but if I were to dive deeper, each situation would require a post in itself!]
The year started off pretty roughly, as right before January a fire destroyed the apartment building my bestie and I lived in. I found myself having to pick up the pieces after being displaced and losing what had been my home for the past few years, while also managing the trauma I had experienced. This experience was pivotal for me in many ways, but one thing that stayed with me was how kind everyone was at that time. It also reaffirmed for me how meaningless material things are. Lastly, I discovered an even greater empathy for those who have to experience even more long-term traumatic situations -- disaster survivors, homeless individuals, and others... Though it took some time to process the entire situation and get out of survival mode, I learned so many valuable lessons. Above all, I am thankful to those who were so supportive at that time, especially those who pushed and encouraged me to continue cherishing life.
While all of this was happening, I was facing my own struggle in realizing how challenging the job market is, especially as a freelancer. Just a year before that I had made the decision to leave my full time grant writing job in order to immerse myself in the creative realm of multimedia. More so throughout the past year, I struggled between the desire to do something I love and the reality of paying bills. The latter forced me to take a job as a hostess in one of the most corporate-driven restaurants in the area (no bueno), my 2nd restaurant job since committing to do freelance work. Once I decided to leave the restaurant job though, things started to turn around. I found opportunities that seemed to appear just in time (after much deliberate networking of course), leading me closer to my goals. Towards the end of 2015, after a year of searching for a steady gig, I was offered a contracted job as both an instructor and a Creative Consultant at UPenn. This gave me the freedom to have stability again, at least for the time being, while also allowing me time to work on other projects. Some of these projects included the short film "El Motor De Mi Vida" which I got to co-direct/edit in collaboration with Media Mobilizing Project, as well as successfully raising funds for TIMBALONA's Teaching Cuban Percussion campaign. I'm so happy that despite the obstacles in 2015, I was also able to truly grow as an artist, further developing my photography and video editing skills, and eventually finding a job that merges my passion for social justice, policy, and media.
Throughout the past year, I also thought deeply and tried to make sense of the injustices around me and in the world, like many of my peers and colleagues. Issues like fighting against police brutality, advocating for immigrant and refugee rights, and making a positive impact on our environment became especially important to me. During that process, I met and collaborated with so many amazing artists, media makers and film festival programmers, musicians, educators, social workers, nonprofit leaders, and other warriors who are so inspiring. Although I know the world can be disheartening at times, I'm excited to keep working with these inspirational leaders, as I know we can all make meaningful change in our own ways as we continue to figure out effective solutions.
For every challenge this past year, there was an equally beautiful moment. I'm super grateful for my family, partner, and friends, who have shown support throughout the past year and beyond. I can't wait to see what 2016 will bring, obstacles and all, as we all try to continue figuring out how to handle life!
Now, it's time for some much needed self-care and travel for the next few weeks! Also, stay tuned later this month as I share my photo portfolio from the past year as well as multimedia pieces I've collaborated on :)