Finding Your Tribe

Growing up, I thought I was the weird one.

At the time, mixed children were not in style, and I didn’t know many. For a lot of my friends I was the darkest or the lightest person they knew. Growing up, people would ask fun questions like which part of your body is white and which part is Mexican ? Why do you have both a menorah and Christmas tree in your house? And where is your mom’s family from. To which I would want to answer:

1) None that you’re going to see

2) Because we like presents

3) California, bitch! Damn. But also Guadalajara. But most are legal. My dad’s family are the illegal immigrants. You think Konopken is a real last name? Chances are high they made it up so to not be caught! I have no proof, but anyways.

However, I didn’t answer any of those questions like I would imagine. In reality, I was the curly hair, Coke bottle glasses, and curvy girl who wanted to fit in so bad with my white friends. But also I wanted my skin a little darker and my valley girl accent to be less when hanging with my brown friends. It brought up feelings of not being enough for anything or any body. Not even myself.

After a while, you learn to adapt by not talking about it, putting your head down, and out working, out shining, and out doing those feelings. That by doing so, maybe they’ll look past my differences. Of course we live in America so why I’ve always worked twice as hard, the result is always half as much for women of color.

With all this, I kept a lot of things bottled up. My eating disorder, whom I was dating, being sexual, loneliness, mental illness to name a few. You wouldn’t have known because I’m an extrovert. I love being around people and experiencing life. However, I didn’t really like being alone because then I would have to hang out with myself and deal with all of this.

When I tried talking to other people about why it stung so much more that my boyfriend is now dating a very white girl, they didn’t understand or didn’t see why. So why am I going to talk about it or anything?

As I said before, you learn to adapt and move on. That you’ll be good wherever you are. And then two years ago, I did a show at Under The Gun that would not only change my creative career, but my life. Allison Reese produced a 6pm Sunday night show called Bits Welcomed. I told a story about destroying a car in Australia and possible hitting a kangaroo.

After the show, I went to get pizza with Allison and she started talking about this show she was doing later that night called Matt Damon Improv. She mentioned that it was a show of all women of color and one white dude that could only repeat words that have already been said. In my head, I was like I want to be a part of this. Maybe she’ll ask me. Allison ask me I am

right here!

Allison continued talking about this show and how it would be a one off, maybe a few months. When I saw a break in the conversation I said well if you ever need anyone to play, I would love to. So I got to perform with Matt Damon Improv that night in our first show and many shows there after.

And the shows are great. I love them. However, the shows are secondary to what these women mean to me. They helped and made me laugh me through my anxiety and depression breakdowns including coming to my apartment, picking out clothes so I could make it to shows, eating a lot of food, dancing to dumb songs we’ve made up, self care nights, heartbreaks, and sharing our feelings over bad techno music. They are everything I never knew I needed. They allow me to share without judgement. They allowed me for the first time in years to be proud and happy with who I am. They allowed me to find my voice. They allowed me to be me.

It’s the other 23 hours and 20 minutes that off stage that I love the most. And I hope you one day find people and your tribe.

My Uncle Carlos

I wrote this piece nearly seven years ago. Last night, my uncle visited me in a dream, and I felt like I needed to share this again.

I could go into his whole life of how he came to be, but I can already hear my Uncle cursing at me, so I won’t. But what I will tell you is who he was. For those who didn’t get the pleasure of meeting my Uncle Carlos, he was a bit of a Superman, Jack of All Trades kind of guy.

Coming from a large family (and when I say large I mean 20 plus brother and sisters) he had to help the family. From working in factories, picking fruit, to some odd jobs he may have forgotten to mention, my Uncle learned from an early age how to work hard and educate himself. Although he never bragged about his intelligence or had degrees hanging on the wall, my Uncle was one of the brightest and smartest men I had ever known.

His tax return may have said one thing, but he could do anything. He was an Engineer, Carpenter, Therapist, Surgeon, just to name a few. But the titles I believed he held closet to his heart was Husband and Family Man. He was always there for our family. He raised his own two sons plus children that weren’t his own. On the surface, you wouldn’t call my Uncle the tradition nurturing type, but he always told you want you needed to hear, not what you wanted. He stepped up when necessary. He provided for his family beyond monetary value. He taught lessons far from the classroom, and put his life and soul on the line for his family. He lived by example.

And there was his wife, Norma. My Uncle acted like a hard ass, but he truly was a teddy bear, especially when it came to my Aunt. It was simply the way he looked at her that spoke volumes of love, passion, and admiration he had for her. Married 40 plus years, Carlos may have acted like a tough guy, never showing too much emotions, but he had a soft spot for Norma. Holding her hand, cuddling with her, even if acted too macho for it, and being a devoted husband. Even in his last days when he couldn’t do much, he would pucker up his lips to kiss his wife. That he knew.

On Friday, August 12 2011, after a hard fought battle with Prostate Cancer, Carlos became Chief Engineer for God. St.Peters most likely asked him to fixed his gate, and then had a beer with him. It is still surreal that I will never see my Uncle again, but I know he is not hurting anymore, and probably running the show with God.

If you didn’t get to meet Carlos, you missed out. But if you want to see his impact, look at his wife, his sons, his family, and his community.We live knowing the man whose hands showed the best of his hard work. We live with him by our side, watching, and probably saying “sal-es” and laughing with a slight smile. Carlos was truly a good person, not because he pretended to be, but because his soul was. When I leave this earth, if I am half as good of person as my Uncle was, I would be content.

I love you and thank you Carlos.