Courage to be Imperfect

Kyle and Kendall. No, that’s not a misspelling. They are boots from Steve Madden. Very similar in style. I just couldn’t decide on which ones from seeing them online.

So, I did a normal thing. I walked into a store. I asked to try on both in my size. When she asked if I liked them, my anxiety shot up. Yes, I did like both. And no, I wasn’t interested in getting either.

My goals were to figure out my size and figure out which I liked best to buy online another time. I felt especially terrible when she said it was Buy One Get The Second Pair Half Off. I responded with: Oh, good thing I’m considering two!

My next thoughts:
Fuck. I got her hopes up. I’m not going to buy these. Like, not even close. $150+ on two shoes, no. Not today. I’m such a jerk.

When she walked into the back of the store to grab another pair for another customer, I knew it was my chance to bolt. And bolt, I did. Out. So quickly, I didn’t realize that I had left my Nalgene water bottle on the bench until I was too far gone.

Fuck. A mistake. Imperfection. Yet, mistakes are okay. Accepting my anxiety in those moments, that’s okay too. It’s all okay. Time to get another Nalgene.


Treatment #5

The receptionist was professional and welcoming. How are you this morning? Good. And yourself? Busy, but pretty good.

More small talk–

Receptionist: this is your fifth treatment. How is it going?
Me: Meh, okay.
Receptionist: You should be seeing about a 10 percent difference after every treatment.
Me: Nah, no.
Receptionist: I’ll make note of that and we’ll see how we can adjust your treatments.

That was comforting to hear. Not sure that message made it to the technician.

The technician looked at my legs after I sat down. I had to tell her I wasn’t doing any treatment on legs. Up here, I said.

So, the treatment was quick, as usual. The technician was kind, as usual. And this treatment was spicy, as usual.

3 more treatments to go. It’s been painful. It’s confronting. And it’s exactly what I wanted.

My entire childhood, I cursed every hair on my body that wasn’t on my head. I was ashamed of all of it. I felt shame when others saw it. I felt shame when they spoke of its existence. I now have empathy for my younger self.

She didn’t deserve the feelings of shame. She didn’t deserve to feel powerless and not valued in her world of Western beauty ideology. This experience has allowed me to confront the past and allowed me to change my perspective of myself.

If this silly decision of laser hair removal has created a space for me to have empathy for myself, perhaps this is the same door I can access for more empathy for myself in other areas of my life.

Empathy kills shame. Thanks to Brene Brown, I understand that secrecy, silence and judgement gives life to shame.

Inhale. Inhale. Surrender

I paid $23 to lay down in a meditation room and breathe with other people. I’m very glad I did. And I can promise you I won’t do it again.

A very good and generous friend of mine suggested the class. And of course, I said yes. Yes is the response these days. Yes to inner-work. Yes to healing from the past. Yes to owning the present. Yes to taking ownership of my future personally and professionally.

I considered having to pay for valet parking, but I was very lucky to snag a spot on the street. A free spot.

After checking me, they confiscate my cellphone. No problem. I’ll just sit in this gorgeous lobby with ‘shhhh…’ signs around me until the class begins.

I sat and discovered there was competition.
She said: oh, have they opened up the doors yet? I want to get my spot.
She added: Breathwork is really in right now. I haven’t a lot of these people here before.

They meant me. It’s a Saturday night in LA. And we were all waiting to lay down on cushions to breathe. For $23 or less. The 23 was the drop in rate. One and done.

The class was a combination of therapy and a call to altar. It was comforting to hear words of encouragement that I’ve heard before. And the tone was very familiar too– especially in the spoken volume to be heard over the crescendos.

I didn’t expect to hear so much crying. I knew it was going to be a safe space, but I wasn’t expecting a chorus of weeping. And as a group, I felt the strength of the community to surrender.

Inhale. Inhale. Surrender. There were so many phrases that resonated with me. I’m sure everyone else felt the same. There was so much said by our worship leader– I mean, meditation coach? Breath-work Instructor? Fearless Leader?

I am Whitina on the Westside. I am a daughter of immigrants. I will not pay to breathe again. I will take what I’ve learned for 23 dollars and try my best to use the practice in my daily life.

Treatment #4

Arrived. Right. On. Time.
Hello Marsha!
Hello New Person who will be ALL UP in there. Nice to meet you.

I’m always impressed with good bed side manner. My theory is that it takes the same amount of energy to be kind or mean. And they choose to be kind. They choose to take the extra steps to express empathy and encouragement.

New gal was very friendly. Greeted me with a big smile. Asked the normal questions: new medications, antibiotics, pregnancy? All nope!

So we begin. You’re halfway there. How is it going?

Meh. Okay, I guess. We small talk about it. She reveals they increase the intensity of the laser every other treatment.

New gal says it can get spicy with coarser hairs. She means 80 of me. Ah, geez.

Spicy. Burning. Yep. I like her word choice. And it does.
Let’s just say my colonial ancestors have strong-hairy genes.

I looked down at the end. I was red. She was sweet enough to give me a bit of hydro-cordi-what before I left.

It’s true what they say. Once a lunar cycle– you’re more sensitive to the laser treatment.

Lesson Learned: reschedule. They give you that 6-8 weeks. Use it.

Career Day

I spoke at Career Day last week. This is what I told the kiddos:

Life is a Soap Opera. I recently heard someone describe your 20s as a series of crossroads. It’s very true. Crossroads. Being broke. That’s your 20s. And today I’ll describe mine. I want to share with you my failures. My lessons. My decisions. My rejections and redirection.

I’ve learned it’s good to confess. I never thought I’d be saying: THESE ARE MY CONFESSIONS. And I can only hear myself say it in Usher’s singing voice. My confessions are truths about me that my family and friends don’t know about.

I wasn’t the kid who always knew what they wanted to be when they grow up. I know I’m still growing up. I’m sure I’m not going to be one thing. I know I am working toward being more. And I know I am able to NOW identify what I want to be:

Fundraiser. Librarian. Writer.

In what order? Should there be an order? Should I just allow the order to come to light? Would a career in each be satisfying? Which one would pay the bills? What about my mental health? What about my quality of life?

I never wanted to leave academia. I loved being in college. I didn’t love the price of a higher education. But I loved learning. I still do. Critical Film Studies shaped me into a stronger person. Exploring representation made me a smarter person. But I knew I wasn’t ready for Hollywood.

I applied to grad school before graduating from undergrad. I wanted to be the first in my family to get a PhD. I wanted that broke-ass life. It wasn’t about making a high salary. It was about making a difference. I didn’t want to stop learning. It was about continuing to find peace in understanding systemic injustices and learning my role in dismantling them. That sort of satisfaction in feeling pulling back the curtain and meeting the wizard.

CONFESSION: I didn’t get in. So, I joined my own version of the Peace Corps. It was constant spiritual warfare. Outdoor education, yes! Giving back to the community that raised me, yes! Living and working with conservative Republicans, nope. But, I swore I wasn’t done. I would find a way to continue working with the community and marginalized people.

Then I choose, love. Miami was all for love. I moved to Miami, FL. I jumped around from being a Bank Teller, Receptionist and Administrative Assistant.

CONFESSION: I turned down a part time job as a Librarian Assistant at Miami Dade college. It was exactly what I wanted. But it meant working on Saturday mornings and night shifts. It meant juggling two part time jobs. Negotiating shifts with coworkers. It meant driving more in Miami. And I was already terrified of the little driving I was doing. Just the thought about the anxiety. I took a different path. I choose a better quality of life.

Spain was a priceless experience. I saw more of the world, than I ever thought I would see. I vlogged. I travelled. I ate. And drank. And lisped my words. Too many words. I also felt like I choose someone other than me, again.

CONFESSION: During my time in Spain, I applied to Masters program of Library and Information Science. I was wait-listed. Rejection is redirection.

Once back in the States, I continued to learn many lessons in the workplace. The first couple of years were most difficult doing administrative work in a field I had no interest in.

CONFESSION: I got an interview at Fox Studios for a coordinator position in Standards & Practices. This is it, I thought. My chance to get into Hollywood. And I didn’t. I didn’t get the job. I was so discouraged, I continued to work that miserable job for about another year. Back into my shell.

I finally had enough and I quit. I reached out to a temp agency. I met with them. They were very clear. You don’t have studio experience. You’ll never be asked to work at a studio.

Well, someone was desperate. I got a call on Wednesday afternoon at 3pm to work at 9pm on Thursday. I said YES.

The next couple of years at Fox Studios was learning experience. Was I in the industry, yes. Was I working in an environment I didn’t see myself in long term, yes. The darkest days brought me to taking a calculated risk: another leap of faith. It felt like my first leap of faith. I had forgotten. It felt like the biggest risk of my entire life. I left Fox Studios.

A true crossroads: to begin at the bottom as a struggling writer with that unpredictable freelance life? a new career in Fundraising while I write my heart out? Or would I be leaving my love of film and television behind for good? I had given it a shot. Hollywood chewed me up and spit me out.

I took an interview at back at Fox, but with a department I had never heard of. It was for a job I had forgotten, I had applied for. Always take the interview. It’s an opportunity to meet someone new. It’s an opportunity to practice the interview process and questions. It’s an opportunity to interview your future employer.

And I quickly fell in love. They charmed me. Their vulnerability to share they are in desperate need of help. Their humor. Their honesty. Their willingness to take a chance on me? But was it right? Was it too good to be true?

That, I’m figuring out.

Dear Dolores:

You give zero fucks. And I love it.

Before the DOLORES screening, I prepared what I would say during the Q&A:

My name is Marsha Rivera. I grew up in Porterville, CA. I am a first generation Guatemalan American. My dad worked in the fields when he was in between mechanic jobs. My question for you is more of a request. A request of you to speak to the pressure we feel to not waste our parents’ sacrifices. And to the internal conflict we feel of being thankful for having jobs in a corporate environment versus speaking out about the systemic injustices we face daily.

But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t do it.

The guy to the left of me asked the first question. About current conditions for field workers. To me, he sounded like a city-guy asking about the country life. It was a great question for current workers. However, she’s been out of the biz for a while. Nonetheless, she answered flawlessly.

The guy to the right of me wanted to raise his hand too. I felt it. I hesitated.

A woman behind me spoke next. She thanked Dolores for her involvement in the 1968 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Which changed her family’s life for the better. Obviously. ME TOO- I wanted to yell. I didn’t do it.

The same woman asked Dolores’s son about his role in the organization. He answered. Dolores answered. And before we knew it, it was over. Q&A ended.

Why didn’t I raise my hand?

Seeing images of Police brutality from Delano officers during the strikes reminded me that little has changed within Law Enforcement. And better yet, I can’t be certain that my own brother is policing with compassion. Compassion isn’t taught in the Academy.

Feelings of shame and sadness flooded over me. I was too ashamed to raise my hand and ask for empathy and encouragement. Not when I’ve done nothing to speak to my brother about his role in changing relations between the community and the police.

But Dolores answered me anyway. She addressed the elephant in the room.

If you are feeling depressed about the current political climate, think of this:

You can cut all the flowers. But you cannot keep Spring from coming.
Pablo Neruda

And she didn’t let us leave until she lead us in a chant. Zero fucks about her press schedule. And we chanted:

Who’s got the power?

What kind of power?


Thank you for years of service. Thank you for today. And thank you for continuing the fight.

Nothing has changed.

Marriage doesn’t fix metal health. Marriage didn’t give me super-abilities. Marriage isn’t winning the lottery. Marriage doesn’t fix the relationship. Or any other relationship with your mother, brother, barber, mailperson.

How’s marriage? Same ‘ol. Same ‘ol.

But, what I should start saying now is: marriage is life after making a public commitment. And ours matches up with life before making a public statement.

Nah. That’s too long.

Same ‘ol. Same ‘ol.

So, are you having kids?