Do not confuse or conflate—my mantra since this seismic global shift, as I’ve been in lockdown for nearly eleven weeks with my family. Last summer, we moved from my birthplace to a new state on the other side of the country. The move (both the literal and emotional processes) was an absolute nightmare, which made the transition to our new home all the more difficult. But I remember thinking: Do not confuse or conflate, Carlos. Hating a move is not hating a new place. It just means you really loathe moving (because it’s, generally, pretty awful). Being stressed out about everything a transition demands does not mean you’re married to the wrong person (it’s just that it’s hard for either of you to be the patient and thoughtful humans you each fell in love with) or that you have the wrong job (maybe you’re just still figuring out that driving commute, instead of the E train from Queens).
On a particularly stressful day last summer where it seemed nothing would or could go right in our transition, I remember having this revelation: I love this new place. I love the vibe, the culture, food, cost of living, the history of this city. It was a signpost for me in my personal evolution, recognizing that my five-years’-ago self could not have made this differentiation. That younger version of me would not have had the maturity or perspective to recognize what was happening inside of me and make that vital distinction. It’s so easy to turn a bad mood into a bad moment into a bad day and so on—to look at anything in front of you, when you’re at your worst, and allow that to appraise anything you see with the same broad brushstroke.
Do not confuse or conflate, Carlos.
And whether it be struggling to adapt to a new city or navigating a global pandemic, careful discernment and big-picture perspective is crucial. For example, straining with homeschooling two kids under five for ten weeks, doesn’t mean you’re not a capable or incredible parent. Much the same way, every educator who was given a couple of days (or perhaps hours) to adapt the remainder of a school year’s curriculum to a virtual one that relied entirely on Zoom, is not a failure if they struggled mightily and are still in search of stable footing.
This is a moment that demands our most grounded, kind, and thoughtfully-aware selves. And if you’re like me and my wife, juggling homeschooling, full-time parenting, and your career, you’re probably more exhausted than you could ever have imagined (which is saying a lot for a parent of two). I promise that you are doing far better than you’ve given yourself credit for. I promise you—whatever you’re giving is far more abundant than you realize.
Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and educator from New York City. He is the author of Fractures (University of Wisconsin Press, 2020), selected by Natasha Trethewey as the winner of the 2020 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. A star of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, Carlos is a proud papi of two. For more, please visit www.CarlosLive.com or find him on Instagram/Twitter: @CarlosAGLive
Carlos’ book ‘Man Up’ was chosen as a #slowchathealth book of the month and is inspired by Carlos’ acclaimed one-man play, a powerful coming-of-age memoir that reimagines masculinity for the twenty-first-century male.
You may have seen Carlos Andrés Gómez on stage at the SHAPE America conference sharing his views on toxic masculinity and his support of the free AXE Generation Unlabeled curriculum that cover a range of topics – from toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes to inclusivity.