One only has to turn the TV on to see all those faces full of hope, talent and sheer determination. From singing hopefuls with beautiful voices to limber stretchy dancers who twirl on a stage hoping for a chance to shine.
The U.S. truly is the land of dreams. Not because here they magically happen but because here you can dream about being whatever the hell you want without having to worry about what people may think. Children here are told from a very young age that they can do and be whatever they want. There are Magnet schools specifically designed for those whose bright future is undeniable. Doors open, paths are paved to make way for those with the talent to walk through them.
I know the freedom to want to do anything and feel that you are entitled to do with your life and fate whatever you want is very American but most people here have no idea how it is everywhere else and they feel they don’t have to worry about reality getting in the way of their dreams.
Back at home one is forced to be practical. There are no dreams of being a star, singer, actress, painter, and writer. The arts are so incredibly underestimated that even if the need to paint, dance, sing and write makes everything else dim in comparison, even when it's all you ever want to do, one holds those thoughts close to the chest as if it was a shameful dark secret to be taken to the grave.
My best friend in high school was a beautiful dancer. She used to watch all those dancing shows, and go to the ballet with me and sigh over complicated contemporary choreographies or painful looking arabesques. I had no idea she wanted to be a dancer. One time for P.E. we had to either make a choreography for a dance or something else that had to do with balls and headstands and all that stuff that require coordination and athleticism and since I am not at all athletically inclined she and I decided to go for the dance. Our group of four met at her house and saw her choreograph a dance that would make the producers of “So you think you can dance” break down in tears. Her arms flew with a grace I didn’t believe her capable of, and the shy friend who never spoke up came to life with her movement. After doing the homework we stayed over to do some underage tequila drinking and only after force feeding her some shots she admitted she dreamed of being a dancer. I never stopped to think how depressing it was that she had to be drunk and coerced into admitting her dream. We never spoke to her about it and we all pretended after that night that we didn’t hear it, that the confession never happened. Neither one of us wanted to be the one to tell her it wasn’t going to happen. Neither one of us wanted to be the one to say her talent would be forever wasted.
I was a closet writer for as long as I can remember. I used to sit in my room, under the bed, in the closet and devour harlequin novels. I would spend hours re-reading Wilde, Twain, Dante, Dumas (Jr. & Sr.), the Bronte sisters, Austen, May Alcott and everything I could get my hands on, from vampires to history, romance, satire, mystery and a bunch of erotic stuff I shouldn’t have been reading but I did anyway and use them for inspiration for romance novels I would never finish, science fiction stories with horrible endings and historically inaccurate novellas.
I couldn’t tell anyone I wanted to be writer. It was such a silly unreachable thing to want to be. I had to dream of being a lawyer, a doctor, engineer or something that could provide for a bright future because otherwise I would be silly. It was shameful to want to be a painter, or dancer, a writer or a philosopher, it was shameful because what kind of future could that afford? What kind of silly person would consider that an option when realistic possibilities were everywhere? I spent my school career writing essays for everyone else because to me it was fun, writing love letters for my friends for their boyfriends and girlfriends and pretending it was just a hobby. I remember telling my dad once I wanted to be a writer and maybe a veterinarian and he said he wouldn’t pay for my schooling just so I could end up being homeless. Way to support your youngest daughter, dad!
Here in the U.S. it's so very different. One can afford to dream to be whatever you want. It is not a dirty secret. It is not something to be ashamed of. I remember the first time Dear Husband read something of mine. I had posted something on facebook about missing home and he was shocked I had written it. He had no idea I “dabbled” and he encouraged me to do a blog, write a book, etc. I hated it when I first met his family and he would say “she’s a writer” when they asked me what I did for a living. I would blush and stammer as if he had just say: “She panders ass” and felt so incredibly uncomfortable about people knowing my secret because deep down I was expecting a lecture. Deep down I was expecting them to smirk. Deep down I was expecting them to say behind my back “what is she thinking?” and laugh at me and my silly notions.
Back at home we are never truly encouraged to pursue our dreams, we are taught what to dream and encouraged to pursue those dreams and those dreams only. We have drilled into us the need to make a profitable career. We are taught that poverty leads to hunger, prostitution, destitution, death and there is now possible way to rise above that. We are taught that only a career will save you from the certain future that will await if you don’t go to medical/law/engineering school.
The funny thing is that when I came out of the writing closet nobody was really surprised. They all assumed it was what I have always wanted to do and all the things I had done so far were simply to pay the bills. It felt so exhausting keeping such a big personal part of me private. As if I was hiding a child that everyone knew was mine.
Here you can dream about being anything you want. You can be the president, an astronaut, an actress, a singer, a fashion designer, a painter, a circus freak, anything! There is no warranty that you’ll make it but just being able to dream about it, just being able to voice it, just being able to put a name to it, just being able to believe it might be possible is incredibly rewarding.
I still have ways to go before I am comfortable saying I am a writer. I haven’t published anything, I don’t have an English degree, I have never gone to a creative writing class and I have a hard time remembering when to use “If” and when to use “Whether” but I am a little more comfortable each day about it. I don’t freeze when Dear Husband throws me under the bus and tell people I write and I no longer give him dirty looks. I ask people to read my blog and when I see someone posted a comment I feel a little less scared every time that they are going to say I am a talentless fool who should shut the fuck up. I fight against that pragmatic Hispanic upbringing every day.
I am so damn thankful that I don’t have that secret burdening me anymore. Because I don't make it I will know it was because it wasn’t my time, or I didn’t have enough talent and not because the Hispanic in me was too much of a chicken shit to dare to dream.
My cousin who is an amazing artist has been blessed with an undeniable talent she has no doubts about and she can blatantly go after because she is here, please check her out at http://andreamontano.blogspot.com/.