Here is exactly why I’m signing up for the #52essays2017 challenge

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I love a good challenge.

I think that’s been sufficiently demonstrated this year alone when I decided to start writing for my Map Your 30s project and even signed up to write every single day during the month of July. The only problem? I suck at keeping up with them.

I am really good at coming up with new ideas and challenging myself and getting really SUPER excited about something… for about a week. Or a month. Or maybe somewhere in between. But I’m not good at actually finishing any of the challenges I set forth for myself.

Hell, this past year I started and quit Whole30 early (for good reason, though!), wrote that I am happy to have quit my July writing challenge early too and finally promised to write more about why turning 30 is scary, but haven’t actually had the time to do so lately.

Okay, so I’ve had some wins: My freelance career is taking off. I’m continuing my favorite kind of work as the freelance food editor at Brit+Co, plus finding time to do writing on the side (primarily at Dose & OMGFactsMamasLatinas and now also Mom.me). Plus I got to write about some truly scary things this year, and that’s been great. I even wrote about how I wrote about things that scare me!

But I’ve had some frustrating moments, too. Besides having issues finishing any of my so-called challenges this year, I’ve also had some motivation problems in my personal writing and the election didn’t actually help with any of that.

But now I’m here… at the end of 2016, with some career highs and still some frustration to show for it. So what’s a girl to do?

Apparently, the only thing I can think of to do is to sign up for yet another challenge.

I know, I know. I must be crazy! But hear me out: Though a writer’s group I am a part of on Facebook, I found one brave woman (Vanessa Mártir) who wrote 52 personal essays this past year and is now inviting other writers to join her in what is being called the #52essays2017 challenge.

To be honest, I was really inspired by it because of the first rule: “This isn’t about producing a polished essay. This is about surrendering to process. This is for you, no one else.”

Some of my favorite things that I wrote this year actually started off on this very blog. Sometimes, just sometimes, I take the time to write down my thoughts and let them flow… and I love those times.

When I read another writer’s post about why she’s signing up for this challenge, I knew I had to also: “And I always learn the same thing from each challenge: when I push myself to write more and to write regularly, my writing improves. In each case, I feel as if my brain became more attuned to writing. Ideas flowed more easily because my brain settled into its “writer” space — and I didn’t give it time to slip out.”

I love that sentiment. And I think I need that sentiment, that feeling, in my life too. I felt wonderful and free when I was writing every day this past July, so will writing an essay once a week just for me really be all that different?

Yes, it will be difficult. Not only am I shit when it comes to keeping up with challenges I sign up for, but I also have other work to do and other projects to focus on. But there’s another line that I keep thinking of over and over lately: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”

It’s a line from the musical Hamilton, which I was lucky enough to see last week while visiting my boyfriend’s family in Chicago. It was, to say the least, even more spectacular than I could have ever imagined (and yes, I imagined it being THE EFFING BEST). And, well, I was inspired.

Inspired by the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton and inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s amazing writing. The man is likely going to win an Oscar for his songs in Disney’s Moana, too, which will effectively make him an EGOT at age 37.

Well, I’m 30 now. Where do I want to be at 37?

I don’t think I’ll be eligible for an EGOT (hah!) but I can do something to take steps and improve my writing. This year, those steps are going to include writing 52 personal essays that are messy and fun and challenging and, most importantly, just for me.

Maybe this will be yet another challenge where I say “oh well, didn’t finish that either!” but it’ll also be a challenge that teaches me something. I don’t know what yet… but, to be honest, I’m getting excited.

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The 5 best stories & essays I wrote in 2016

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Well, it’s the end of the year… A time that most people take to reflect on what has happened in the past and what you’re looking forward to in the future.

I’ll be doing a few posts along those themes, starting with a classic: A roundup of my best work in 2016! Since I split my writing in between journalism-style pieces and personal essays, I thought I would do the same thing here. Below are my top 5 stories and top 5 essays. Enjoy!

Stories: 

1. The 6 Healthy Food Trends You Should Be Trying Right Now (via Brit.co): The best part of this story is that I got to interview a good chunk of fabulous food writer and blogger friends. There’s TONS of great info here, and it’s still relevant to today. And for 2017, too!

2. 10 Reasons why getting older is actually a GREAT thing (via MamasLatinas): With my Map Your 30s project in full swing this year, I learned a lot about turning 30 and getting older… And some of those fun lessons are all here. And you don’t have to be as old (or young) as I am to enjoy this one.

3. 14 Traditional Cuban Recipes That Will Wow Your Tastebuds (via Brit.co): I’m Cuban, so is there any wonder why this was such a FUN piece to write? It’s a collection of some of my favorite foods, and easy recipes for everyone who’s willing to give this food a try. Empanadas are going to be big in 2017, so go ahead!

4. 14 Spanish-language movies (with subtitles!) to watch on Netflix with your love (via MamasLatinas): This actually took a LOT of research. I ended up basically falling in love with each movie as I slowly went through my list, and added all of them to my own Netflix account too. Still waiting to finish watching these, but working on it…

5. Recipe: Cuban Meaty Potato Stuffing (via The Kitchn): This is probably my proudest piece of the year in terms of finally breaking into a publication that I have admired for years. If you’re not familiar, The Kitchn is one of the best sites out there for home cooks and I was absolutely thrilled to have my Thanksgiving recipe featured.

Essays: 

1. What I Learned Struggling to Get Sober (via Dose): This was probably by far the scariest piece I wrote this year, and it was first born right here when I finally confessed that I have been in recovery for just over a year. It was terrifying to hit the “publish” button, but received tremendous (and positive) response.

2. The Difficulty of Accepting Generosity When We Date (via Dose): This is a piece that I first wrote here too, actually… And came about during a particularly encouraging and inspiring moment in my then-early relationship with Adam (more about that below). My editors loved the piece, so they reposted it.

3. I’m a Bisexual Latina Immigrant. I Can’t Wait to Vote. (via Dose): This is probably the most important piece I wrote this year, in terms of what is going on in the larger world and how it is affecting people like me. I also wrote a response after the election, which wasn’t quite so optimistic at all. But I’m just doing what I can to give voice to marginalized communities.

4. My life turned into a rom-com cliché and I’m okay with it: This is likely the most fun piece I have written all year, and it’s one that I have come back to over and over and happily re-read. It’s a sweet piece about how I moved out of New York City thinking that I would take a yearlong “break” to figure out my next step, and instead met the love of my life.

5. Here is the full story of my 100+ pound weight loss (plus some resources): I’ve written about my weight loss before, but it’s primarily been in bits and pieces. This blog post is a full account of how I lost weight, along with some resources for others. There’s still more to say on this topic, so don’t be surprised if you hear more about it.

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