What dreams may come: 3 words to guide my year

This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it. To learn more about me and my writing, visit my website or follow me on Twitter.

My dreams use to fit on a small slip of paper, scribbled in black ink while sobbing in frustration, anger, and fear.

“What do you want, Icess? What the hell is it that you want?” I asked myself this through gritted teeth.

Not this, these feelings of inadequacy and of blaming myself. I didn’t want my job and I couldn’t figure out why. But the list I wrote. The scribbles. That was real. Super real. It was also the last time I dreamed really big. I dreamed so big that I was afraid of it and hid it under my desk calendar so no one would see it but me.

That time in my life was brutal. I don’t want to rehash that here but basically, this. It was brutal because I had forgotten how to do two simple things.

  1. Trust
  2. Dream

These were no longer of use to me, these two useless things. Life no longer allowed space for things that can not be measured.

I lived my life like that for a while, my 2016 new years resolutions were very measurable. How many stories written? How many published? What was completed? What wasn’t? Each question was attached to a number, a quota, a measure of how my life, my writing life specifically, was lived. Life through spreadsheet. I was pretty successful at it.

My resolutions for 2017 weren’t as easy. I didn’t know what else to measure. What else was there?


I am afraid of being successful.

It’s a thing. Always has been. Always will be, even if it’s in little doses. Failure is so much more interesting. I love the chase, the hustle, the finding solutions, the scheming. It’s the Cuban in me, as natural as batting an eyelash. Success means done. I don’t like being done. I like the keeping going of things, the selfishness of eternal education.

That’s one of the things that kept me a reporter longer than I needed to be. Frankly, I should have left when I planned to in 2010. There needed to be a clean break with my career but I lingered because I still loved it and wanted to save it and learn more and, yes, fix it.

When journalism began to have its present problems, I was one of the ones who believed that if we worked together that a solution could be found. But there aren’t enough Cubans in the newsroom. Other people aren’t afraid of success. They fear failure. They became afraid. And they did what scared people do.

So I began to stop trusting.


I stopped trusting when she said I said things I didn’t say.

When children became bosses, armed with privilege and re-enforced by stupidity.

I stopped trusting when telling the truth was turned against me.

I stopped trusting when she enjoyed torturing me.

I stopped trusting when she showed children how to torture me.

I stopped believing people when they said they were going to be there and weren’t.

I stopped enjoying my life when I could no longer find a reason to laugh.

I stopped investing in people when they showed me who they really were.

I stopped all of it and closed myself off. At the end of the day, I needed to do what I could to survive, even if it was to learn to be afraid. So I learned to make my cells tremble.


There were still tear stains on the piece of paper when I dug it up recently. Soda stains too because at the time I was self medicating with food (cheaper than alcohol).

A friend had asked me to write the 10 things I wanted to do in 2017. I couldn’t finish the list. Barely started it. Then he asked me to write what I wanted to do this year that I thought was impossible. It was a strain to think that big but I came up with a couple. However, even as I wrote them I knew they weren’t quite right. Not big enough. Not impossible enough. Not enough. They were me grasping at straws.

I had forgotten that I had already made a list of impossible possibilities. So when he asked me to do some homework, I knew I had already done it.

Digging through the artifacts of a past life, I searched for this list. Maybe I should frame it, I thought to myself as I moved books and papers aside. In the bankers box was my former world — old awards, a framed copy of my first Guardian opinion piece, a broken vase, business cards, desk toys. In the bottom of the second box was the list. I should have known it would be there, it was the first thing I packed when I left my former life, after this happened.

The words were still there. Some of the things I wanted were so simple. Things like living in a warm place or wanting to live with my mom. Some were bigger — owning my own house in Antigua, Guatemala.

But now, after all the pain and tears and, frankly the worst shit, these dreams, what I wanted so much aren’t big enough. Bigger. I want more than this. Bigger than this.


Three words for an entire year. Three hundred and sixty five days of decisions that need direction. That’s what my friend offered me. The ability to decide based on what I wanted to receive from the universe.

Now that I am in this much better place, this was the perfect time to focus on intentions and guiding words. I had nothing to lose, he said.

“All you have to do is ask for it.”

So, I’m asking. I’m looking at my old list and I’m asking and putting my words for the year out there. Not resolutions but intentions. And I am asking the universe to open myself up to this.




After the attempt, I streamed down the number and type of people around me. I keep my network pretty small so now there are people I trust around me.

But it isn’t just trusting my network, it’s trusting the universe, that people are basically good, that good things happen, that despite what happened to me and what is going on in the world right now I trust that there is justice.

I want to trust that if I do put things out in the universe, it will come back to me — love, goodness, and all that.

I want to trust that I can no longer be afraid.

Who will show me how to trust again?

Enjoying my life is important. I don’t want to or have to hide anymore. It has taken me a lifetime to get in this better place. I don’t want to hustle it or fix it, I want to enjoy it and the people around me.

I want to enjoy having breath in my lungs.

Who wants to enjoy it with me?

Cultivate — investing in relationships, in family, in myself. This essay a week is an investment in me and my stories. I have so much to say and in the past week I’m learning it all over again. Maybe it’s the product of having to write something every week but I have stories and thoughts and opinions. The world needs my voice, it has been missing for far too long. I’m cultivating to one day have an abundant harvest.

Who will and what will I cultivate?

Who knows if this is the year I buy my house in Latin America or self-publish (finally!) my book(s), or finish the memoir. I don’t think that’s the point. I need to believe that this is possible again and that it isn’t just the size of the dream but that I can actually achieve it.

Wish me luck!