Moving Back From City Life to Island Time
A self-reflection on moving back home to Puerto Rico.
Moving back home has been the toughest move in my entire career, but it is with confidence that I say “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
I know my social media feed is all smiles, the #happytropipeople lifestyle and all, but don’t be fooled by the looks. This creative freelance work/life combo isn’t perfect and it’s been far from easy.
To give you some background story on my career, I moved to Miami when I was seventeen. My dream was to be the next Grace Coddington, creative director at large of Vogue magazine. My journey started at FIU, where I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Then I moved to the big apple, where I did my Minor Studies in Marketing at NYU.
My instinct to hustle started early on, even before moving to Miami. I’d worked as volunteer and intern in international conventions in Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico. As a student at FIU and NYU, I did a couple of internships at event and marketing agencies working for brands like Honda and RadioShack.
After graduation, I landed a job in the best Latin Music Public Relations firm in town. So naturally I stayed in Miami. Traveling the world and going to numerous red carpet events with artists like Carlos Vives, Alexis y Fido, Daddy Yankee, and many more.
As my inner Grace Coddington dream started to fade, I decided to pursue my postgraduate in Art Direction at Miami Ad School. Halfway through, I quit Public Relations and moved to Buenos Aires where I did my first creative agency work. Then it was Madrid, San Francisco, and finally back in Miami.
I’ve been working on a freelance basis since then. Problem solving through creative strategy, helping brands find a meaningful purpose and voice in both the physical and the digital space.
September 2017, was the time when life gave me wings and also ripped them off as I was 35,000 feet high. My wings being the amazing opportunity to be a keynote speaker at Social Media Week Puerto Rico.
Their amazing team flew me from Miami to speak in my homeland about my work and to inspire others. A dream come true. Then three days later, I left with a carry-on bag on a business trip where I was managing a campaign in Los Angeles.
And that was when the ripping of my wings happened, September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria passed straight through my gut. Our team had to cancel the campaign in Los Angeles as the world trembled in Mexico City, burned in North California, and flooded in Puerto Rico.
I cried for six straight hours the whole way back to my apartment in Miami. Feeling the loneliest I’ve ever been, knowing there was no humanly way possible to be with my family or even talk to them.
Restless and broken, I went straight from the MIA airport to Costco. To my surprise, all of my Puerto Rican friends in town were doing the same. And just like that, we made something out of nothing.
The more impossible it became to send aid to our families, the more we came together in faith that there had to be a way. Most of us 20-something, unexperienced, unprepared and not taking “no” for an answer.
After the longest ten days of our lives, we managed to send home over one million pounds of donations and over sixty-thousand pounds of medicine. Together, with the help of the local community, private sponsors, 20 cargo planes and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
After the chaos, December 2017, I decided to go home and stay for good. At first, it was a matter of helping my mom build her business back up. But then, it became a personal goal. I wanted to be a part of that growth movement on the island.
I had to adjust to a market that had suffered great economic and mental health loss. My wings didn’t grow back right away, even though I was moving, I was still falling at a million miles an hour to what felt like the darkest pit fall in my life.
I’d lost my shine, I felt helpless, and after my grandpa’s passing I lost all hope. I went through anxiety, which then led to depression, which then led to my health collapsing. I was a trainwreck, I was throwing up and not able to sleep well.
Innately I’m a problem solver, the root of my stress was trying to fix everything and everyone around me. I had to make a stop for my own mental health and sanity.
I went to a therapist a couple of times. She gave me some tools to help me understand the nature of my fears and frustrations. On my third session, as I realized how much money I was spending, I decided to treat myself to my own spiritual journey.
I made small decisions, which eventually helped me plant my feet back on the ground and pickup my wings. I started practicing yoga every Monday at sunrise, meditating to a weekly intention word, and I even booked a couple of soul-charging trips.
Between the months of August and September I went to Costa Rica, Orlando, Wisconsin, and Chicago. Surfing the Pacific Coast with my cousin, road tripping through the rainforest with friends, hiking up a volcano, swimming in a white lagoon, going to Disneyland with my family, letting myself be a kid again, going to a Reggaeton Fest with my girlfriends, witnessing our flag fly to the rhythms of Bad Bunny and Wisin y Yandel, it was all precisely the kind of soul food I needed to lift myself back up.
I decided to start fresh and let go of everything that was holding me back. I took on new projects, built new brands, and helped friends with their businesses. I finally started being my best productive self again.
At first I struggled to make a living, and some days I still do. But then other days I’m able to dip my toes in the sand, go for a swim, sip a beer, and get down to business again.
This is what I call tropical multitasking, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I learned that there is definitely no stronger force than a woman determined to rise. Currently I have three main clients, I keep freelance designing and ultimately I’m working on this new personal project called Island Collab.
The goal is simple: think global, act local. The best is yet to come for us Puerto Rico!