The NEXT BIG DREAM! Keynote Address Hofstra University

Keynote Address: Hofstra University ~ Hispanic Heritage Month
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Alicia Anabel Santos

THE NEXT BIG DREAM!

GOOD MORNING I am humbled to be invited to deliver this 2014’s Keynote address in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. I would like to thank Jenn Christ, Director of Multicultural and International Student Programs for inviting me. As well as the organizations who are co-hosting this mornings reception… thank you to HOLA and a special shout out and thank you to Joanna Soares, your HOLA President for bringing me to Hofstra.

Who are we to dream? Dreams are reserved for the special ones… “Not for me! Only certain people get to have their dreams come true!”

As I was preparing for today I have been meditating on what I wish I had been told when I was in school!

The immediate thought that came to me was to share all that it has taken me to get here! All that it has taken for me … to be happy!

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What is happy?

I heard this in an interview where the audience was asked; “What do you want?” and the majority responded, “I want to be happy!”

What does this even mean? What does this even look like?

Happiness to me for a long time was a feeling I wanted desperately to experience. I wanted to surround myself with only the things that made me happy.

Today happiness looks like security and stability.
Happiness for me is seeing my work received in the world.
Happiness for me is being able to do the things I love like travel.
Happiness is being able to provide for myself and my daughter and these days happiness is hard work and perseverance.

But we are jumping ahead of ourselves… before we can even get to happy… lets talk about dreams…

If a man says he’s going to quit his job to pursue his dream… people will call that “courageous… he is brave, daring, a risk taker…”

If a woman says she is leaving her job to pursue her dream she is considered “irresponsible, unreliable, her head is in the clouds… or she is seen as flighty.”

I am thinking about the young girls I work with who also have dreams.

Yesterday we had a wonderful conversation about their vision for their futures and goals. The thing they most wanted was to be able to provide for their families. They also mentioned taking care of the homeless and donating to causes such as cancer. They told me that if they had a million dollars they would buy homes for all their loved ones and they affirmed going to college.

They shared with me the perceptions and stereotypes they hear about where they live and the people from their “hoods” or “the projects.” They shouted out words like; “ghetto, ratchet, illiterate, lazy, drug dealers, prostitution, murderers, liars, thieves, poverty and pregnancy”—stating that this is how the world sees them.

I wondered if they saw themselves this way. I wondered what messages these young girls are receiving when they are told, “People like you are at risk! Where you come from girls have a hard time making it…” Or if they are lucky they become one of the “success stories!!!”

How can they hold onto hope and believe in themselves? How can they believe in their dreams when the world doesn’t believe they can obtain them or that they even deserve it? How many of you have experienced this?

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My talk TODAY is about hope… our hopes and dreams, but mostly it’s about really looking at why hoping isn’t enough!

Hoping is like making a wish and blowing out the birthday candle for something we hope to have versus actually believing the dream can be yours. The kind of hope I am talking about here is about NOT only calling it forth but moving towards that dream every single day.

Sometimes our dreams can be met with resistance by those around us.

How many of us have a dream that we fear may be frivolous and not accepted by those we love… by our families and the people that surround us day to day?

How many of you feel pressured by the people around you?

Have you ever felt that they were holding you back?

There is so much pressure to know all the answers.

Pressure to make life choices.
Pressure to know where you’re headed.
Pressure from family.
Pressure from school.
Pressure from peers.
Pressure to have it all figured out NOW!

I was under a lot of pressure to “DO THE RIGHT THING” in life…

Doing the right thing meant doing well in school.
Doing the right thing meant graduating.
Doing the right thing meant being a responsible adult, paying bills, and owning things.

I was to get my self-worth from constantly doing the right thing…

Pressure …

When I asked my daughter if she felt pressure… she responded, “you’re not the only one worrying about our future… WE worry all the time…
we worry about getting jobs after graduation…
we worry about our student loans…
we worry about being successful or homeless…
we are the ones who have to live with what we do!”

I’ve also had many conversations with students, artists, and even professors who have shared with me the ways people have held them back. Sometimes they have the best of intentions…

I know what this pressure feels like and also how it feels to be around those who are holding me back. I found myself really pulling away from people in my life the moment I realized what my life purpose… I didn’t want anyone to keep me from my dream.

The things we will do to make others happy!

This is what happens when we let the perspective of outsiders influence the dream…

What we do and the choices we make…

Some of us will make decisions and choices with others in mind in order to make them happy…

But this conflicts with what we want. We are the ones left not wanting to disappoint them while sacrificing our own happiness.

Who are we to dream?

I think this is the question that most of us will ask as we explore who we are and come into the fullness of who we are meant to become.

I remember when I started writing after 9/11… IT WAS A SUNNY TUESDAY… SEPTEMBER 11TH…
the towers
devastation
legacy
October 3, 2001 – Courtney – I AM A WRITER! “I know mommy” story.

My family couldn’t quite understand why I decided to move back to New York the place where all this devastation had happened… they couldn’t comprehend what I was doing… what I was in search of… my father in particular was devastated when I told him I would be leaving Bacardi USA, partly because he was proud that I worked for such a prestigious corporation, but second, because he was upset that he would be losing his perks ☺

There was something that kept me moving towards the direction of this writers dream! Every time I reflect on this moment of my life I think of The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. The message is about how there is a moment when we make a decision and move in the direction of that thing we want so badly, so desperately, that thing that keeps us awake… that thing only we were destined to do…

That moment when we take just one small step towards it… we will find that all of a sudden amazing things begin to align in our favor.

I started planning my move to NYC. I gave up my apartment in Florida and put everything in storage and moved back home with my parents to save money and begin my quest.

My family didn’t understand what I was doing. I was writing in the corners. I was hiding in the back yard. I was obsessed with writing. I didn’t want to waste a single moment now that I knew what my life purpose was. I was hiding… I guess there was a part of me that wanted desperately to hold onto the dream and not allow for anyone to taint it. I was being very quiet about it… I knew they didn’t approve… I knew they didn’t support this writing dream… “Alicia escritora…. Get a real job…”

They were worried. They wanted to make sure that Courtney and I would be ok. Where would we live? How would we live? How could we afford New York City? This dream to them was unattainable.

Hiding in the corners I found was the only way I could become who I was meant to be …

Our families and society place so much pressure on us to become who they expect us to be. They expect us to have accomplished certain things, to be in a certain place in life and own very specific things… like a house at 43 not an apartment in Harlem.

And some of us may take that path of having all of those traditional things… and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I have come to understand and accept that I was never going to be what they expected of me and who they expected me to be…

I was never going to be, “The good catholic daugther, the right Dominican wife, the perfect Latina woman!”

That was not my destiny…

I was hiding in the corners because I was being called to break these norms… “you don’t get divorced, you don’t come out as lesbian, you don’t fall in love with a woman, you don’t quit school, you don’t quit your corporate job, you don’t leave your security, you don’t leave your daughter alone at sixteen to travel throughout Latin America working on a documentary, you don’t go away to college, and you certainly don’t pursue writing seriously…”

I was breaking norms… breaking with tradition… changing my values while trying to honor and hold onto where I was from.

And it has been a battle…

What I am doing is unacceptable. I became la ATREVIDA! How dare she?

And I couldn’t fail…

Until I did!

“What has shaped me are my failures!” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Author, Eat Pray Love…

Being shaped by failures is hard to admit and even hard to live with…

To see our failures as something that arrives for our GREATEST/HIGHEST GOOD is hard to see in the moment… especially when we feel disappointed or ashamed in ourselves.

My greatest failure arrived after all of my excitement to move to New York to pursue my writers dream.

Share Bacardi story
Two weeks until move
Saved for move
Job lined up
School chosen for court
Last hurrah
How what are you doing to do
Importance of keeping your commitments

A few weeks later I was driving to NYC going after my dream… but I couldn’t shake off this feeling of utter defeat!

At what point do you pivot… your in the thick of it… what is it that gives you the courage to dream again and move forward? What was the lesson in the failure? What did I learn?

1) I am NOT my mistakes…
2) I will always keep my commitments…
3) I AM A WRITER!

Video: I AM NOT MY MISTAKES!

Elizabeth Gilbert talked about her failures as not only being what has shaped her but talked about how she turned her suffering to grace. That it’s about learning from our failures…

If I don’t transform from it… she sees it (failure) as a waste of suffering.

Our failures are here to show us something…

Finding the courage to walk my own path despite my mistakes… finding the courage after my most devastating failure was no easy feat… I was crying privately everywhere.

I was praying all day everyday…
I was praying for a job…
I was praying for forgiveness.
I was praying that we would be ok.

Finding the courage to walk my own path despite the pain… The pain that I alone was living in. The pain I shared with no one…

After losing everything I had planned for …

I mustered the little strength I had and continued on my journey anyway…

What was it that propelled me? What is that thing that motivated me to rise from my ashes? That continues to push me…

It was my daughter…

I could not fail…
I could not let her see me crying…
I was born to teach her something…

Finding the courage to walk despite the pain, despite the errors, despite the failure and fear…

This is what Elizabeth Gilbert talks about when she says, “When you say YES to the call… you BETTER be ready!”

Things are going to knock you down… you will be tested to see whether or not you really want this dream… and we must be courageous.

VIDEO: WE WILL BE TESTED… WE WILL WANT TO GIVE UP!

I understood that in the middle of my pain… I still had a choice!

I chose me…
I chose Courtney…
I chose to keep moving…

The moment I said YES I chose my own life…

I did it for me and for my daughter.

I wanted to show her/teach her how to go after her dream.

How even if she fails … even if she falls 100 times… 100 times she must GET UP!

It could/would have been easier to stay in Florida in the comforts of mami and papi’s home. I chose the harder path on my journey.

The moment I answered my call the truth of who I was destined to be was revealed to me. I began to discover what I am really made of… a whole lot of grit. A whole lot of fierceness… a whole lot of fire, fury and love….

I failed at many things before I started attaining success. But the truth is all of it was really a lesson in believing in myself again.

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I called on divine assistance…

There is a moment where we have hit the worst of it… our darkest hour… the final act… where we’re not sure we can go on… where the only way out is to go in…

And for me the only way out was to pray… to pray to whatever power or source we believe in to help us get through it and out of it… to help us to the other side.

My visioning sister says, “Cuanto bano uno se va dar???” How many spiritual baths can one give themselves?”

This is that moment when we call on the divine… when we call out for help. When we accept that we can’t do it alone. This is the point where we stop relying and listening to things outside of us for the answers… Here is where we surrender, trust and go within.

And then the dream changes… it shifts…

It’s ok to change our minds.

The most liberating piece of advice I could give you is that YOU get to choose where you are headed.

Yes it’s important to have a plan… It’s not about walking blindly.

It’s about being ok with the plan getting altered… not being so attached to the plan that even the thought of making changes is enough to drive us insane…

Sometimes we just need reminders of who we are and all that we are made of. Every day requires consistency. Every day we must take at least one step toward the dream. Just make one move. And here is where we might meet that one person in some unexpected place who can help us with our careers. Here is where we might begin paying attention to the people who show up to help you.

And the moves we decide to make may not be accepted.

Not being accepted by those we love is a very real fear… its one of the reasons I didn’t want to write my memoir and at the same time was precisely the reason I had to write it. I was not going to be able to write another thing until I completed Finding Your Force: A Journey to Love.

This idea of FINDING something… searching for something… dreaming of something and constantly being asked if I finally FOUND it?

YES! I have had many moments of discovery and amazing truths revealed to me but the truth is the “journey” never stops. I will always be moving towards “Finding MY Force!”

And now that that’s done its on The NEXT BIG DREAM!

Here’s what I WOULD HAVE LIKED to be told as a student in college…

If I could give you one piece of advice… that would have saved me from years of heartache?

VIDEO: WHAT I WOULD HAVE WANTED TO KNOW!

I guess for me I would have wanted my dreams to be validated, supported and encouraged. I would have wanted those around me to say that they want for me the same thing that I want… that my wanting to be happy was not unrealistic… I would have wanted to know… that it IS OK NOT to know what’s next. I don’t need to have a house right out of school … that I don’t really need to know TODAY who I am, where I am going, and where I want to be and that it IS OK…

Once we understand that it’s ok NOT to have all the answers we can release this self imposed expectation and all the outside voices “should’g us to death…” this is where we are free to become who WE are destined to be.
I am thinking a lot about THE NEXT BIG DREAM! I am thinking about where I come from and where I am headed. What the future looks like and why we mustn’t just wing it! We must nudge the universe… shake the branches of the trees… and move swiftly like the wind in the direction of it.

What is that thing YOU most want?

The dream I most want is around writing… to continue to create beautiful art… to study and grow into myself as a writer… the learning is constant. My dream is to complete my historical fiction novel. The dream I most want is to teach writing on the college level. My dream today is to be accepted into a wonderful writer’s residency where I can get lost in the woods and “souly” (yes I made that word up)… I want to be souly connected and lost in the heart of my story, with no disruptions or distractions. I want to be alone… just me and this world I am creating.

Your place in the world…
The calling…
Your calling!

We all want to know what part we play. What are we contributing? What are we here to do? We are all in search of our place in the world. This is what it means when we hear about legacies… how will we be remembered what have we left behind? Our place in the world is an important one. We are each called to do great things.. to nurture… express, and share our gifts… our place is really about understanding…accepting what we are here to do and getting to the task of achieving it…

I was always so resistant to having a plan because there was a moment I found that plans were so rigid and so not me! Plans didn’t allow for me to be my carefree–free spirited self, until I needed a plan… until I started making a plan…until I started visualizing and road mapping my life and writer’s journey. I found that when I had a plan it gave me direction.

A plan gave me purpose.

My plan showed me all I needed to do to arrive to where I wanted to be…and while my plan was filled with plane crashes, fires, mad detours… obstacles, loss, failures, rejections, break-ups, heartache, hard lessons, and train wrecks… NOTHING could keep me from my destination…

I am still moving!
I am still standing!

Here’s the wonderful thing! You are in an incredible position to be as young as you are with so many years to go through your own train wrecks… and you have time to figure out your DREAM!

You don’t have to have all the answers TODAY… RIGHT NOW!!!

Our dreams are meant to reveal/show us something… they are meant to give us something to strive for… desire and hope for…

The beautiful thing about the dream is that it is constantly growing, changing and shifting. We are the ones who get to decide what we want to add or remove from our dreams… be it that dream job… that beautiful home… traveling the world… being able to provide…

And there will be a point when you will consider quitting.. and this is the moment that you will discover what your true talents and strengths are… what you’re REALLY made of!

What are you waiting for to go after that thing you so desperately want? When will you believe that dreams really do come true? That you are worthy of it…

When will you know that you do not need anyone’s permission or approval?

THE NEXT BIG DREAM… is about dreaming up the next thing and being ok with adjustments to the dream. It’s ok to change the dream… its about constant movement and growth towards!. It’s blowing out the candle, making a wish and expecting the dream to happen! Never stop dreaming!

THANK YOU!

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One thought on “The NEXT BIG DREAM! Keynote Address Hofstra University

  1. […] Excerpt: On hopes, dreams, and other things we must break thru… to have the breakthrough! My talk TODAY is about hope… our hopes and dreams, but mostly it’s about really looking at why hoping isn’t enough! Hoping is like making a wish and blowing out the birthday candle for something we hope to have… versus actually believing the dream can be yours. The kind of hope I am talking about here is about NOT only calling it forth… but moving towards that dream every single day… Our families and society place so much pressure on us to become who they expect us to be. They expect us to have accomplished certain things, to be in a certain place in life and own very specific things… like a house at 43 not an apartment in Harlem. And some of us may take that path of having all of those traditional things… and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I have come to understand and accept that I was never going to be what they expected of me and who they expected me to be… I was never going to be, “The good catholic, the right Dominican wife, the perfect Latina woman…” That was not my destiny… I was hiding in the corners because I was being called to break these norms… “you don’t get divorced, you don’t come out as lesbian, you don’t fall in love with a woman, you don’t quit school, you don’t quit your corporate job, you don’t leave your security, you don’t leave your daughter alone at sixteen to travel throughout Latin America working on a documentary, you don’t go away to college, and you certainly don’t pursue writing seriously…” – cont. reading – The NEXT BIG DREAM! Keynote Address Hofstra University | Alicia Anabel Santos https://aliciaanabelsantos.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/the-next-big-dream-keynote-address-hofstra-univer… […]

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