"Happiness, not in another place but in this place...not in another hour, but this hour." That's Walt Whitman. It's also what's weighed on my mind as I stand on the cusp of moving halfway across the country. Shortly after writing this I'll start making the drive from Madison, WI to Washington, D.C. In the chaos that has been packing, and cleaning, and deciding what's important enough to bring, I wanted to stop, and really consider what this all means.

I came to Madison a little over six years ago. When I came here I was eager for a new adventure. A change of scenery. In the time I've been here I've seen myself completely change. I'm sure you're thinking that makes sense, considering how much time has passed. However, I feel like it's more than just the superficial changes brought about by the passage of time.

When I came to Madison, I had two years of college completed — having taken a lot of time off due to finances. Since then I've been able to finish my degree. When I came here I serving, and hating it. In the time I spent here I was able to see myself grow in a professional space. I lived a career I never thought I'd have. When I came here, I was frustrated at myself for feeling like I wasn't fulfilled in the things I actually wanted to be doing: specifically writing. In the time I've been here, albeit in small doses, I've been able to see myself grow as a writer. Pitching, getting published, getting paid for my work (What?!). I've grown to have enough confidence in myself as a writer that I literally paid for the website you're currently on to have a professional space for all of it.

Taking a second to really step back and consider all that I've been able to do while here finally allowed me to appreciate the time I've spent here, the things I've accomplished, the friendships I've made. It also brings me back to what it all means.

"Happiness, not in another place, but in this place...not in another hour, but this hour." The lesson I'm taking from my last six years here is to allow myself to give in to everything this current moment has to offer, and not get so enamored with what I could, or should be doing for my future, that I'm letting it overtake the experience of "now."

While I was here, I spent a lot of time thinking of seeing myself living in a bigger city again — complaining about having friends that were so far away. At times, not appreciating or cultivating the friendships I made here; not putting myself out there enough to make this feel more like what I thought I was missing. So, that's the lesson I take from this entire experience, and as I find myself moments away from leaving it all behind for something new (scary!): to find happiness (what ever that may be) in the current moment, and not let it take me moving halfway across the country to really appreciate what I have.

  • Jose Alonso Munoz

Updated: Jun 7, 2018

I'm sure you'd had a familiar feeling: waking up one morning and thinking to yourself about the many ways you’ll seek to make improvements in your personal life, professional life, or maybe even the world. Have you ever considered how the ways you’re looking to do better are just hurting you in the long run?

Let me stop talking about "you," and start talking about me. What if the ways I'm looking to "do better" are actually hurting me. There's been multiple times over the past few weeks where I've wanted to share a news article, YouTube video, or other moment of current events through a Facebook post. What's stopped me, or made me think twice, has been my inability to find the right words to share the many ways I'm angry or hurt, by that particular news story.

I recently posted on Facebook about the lovely, totally not racist, misunderstood, white man who threatened to call ICE on two deli employees who were speaking to customers in Spanish. I shared an anecdote about growing up with an English speaking mother who would routinely speak to me in Spanish while in public, and the (at the time) inexplicable anxiety it caused me. A day later I posted a story about the Republican Gubernatorial candidate from Georgia and his "deportation bus." That post was one I went back to many times. Eventually, after deleting and rewriting multiple paragraphs, I posted it with a simple "sigh."

Since then, there's been many times I've wanted to post something newsworthy along with a rant about race and social justice. I've had a lot of things to chose from, too. Like, Starbucks and their racial bias training, "lost" undocumented immigrant children, the killing of a young undocumented woman from Guatemala, Roseanne - I can keep going. We're living in trying times, with a seemingly infinite number reasons to get upset about the state our our nation and the people in it.

So, why, you might ask, did I decide against these posts? Why self-censor? While originally subconscious, the answer to this has became clear recently - I just didn't have the energy to spend on something so ineffective. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to be said about educating those around you, or bringing awareness to social issues. It didn't feel like I wasn't doing that, however. In all of the incarnations of potential posts, I was declaring my own fear, or pain at these events. My own outrage. It felt performative. "Here is the gay Mexican immigrant I'm friends with on Facebook, looks like he's scared or angry, or upset, by some new thing Trump or some racist did. Yikes!"

Every "like" or "angry face" my post garnered on Facebook became less and less a moment of solidarity, and more and more ammunition to keep the show going. To what end? Ultimately, I asked myself: What did I want to get out of it?

Both leading up to, after the election, I found myself carrying on multiple conversations with many well-meaning white people on Facebook. Even before the election, I've never been shy about posting my opinions on social issues, or engaging in heated debates in the comments sections of a friend's post. I just kept coming back to this question: What did I want to get out of it? Was I going to change the heart and mind of your aunt Becky? Was Margaret going to admit that she doesn't know nearly as much as she thinks she knows about the intricacies of immigration law? Most signs point to no.

Then what? Was I going to make my well-meaning white friends more aware of social issues. Possibly. What was more likely, at least in my mind, is that I would share my fear, anger, and pain, with my Facebook friends, just to share it. Just to help them see how the barrage of awful headlines aren't just isolated incidents, but rather, incidents that speak to the higher systemic problems prevalent in the lives of people of color across the nation.

While that's all well and good, when I stepped back and analyzed what I was doing, I realized while I was "doing better" by bringing awareness to these highly important things, pouring my anger or fear just felt like I talking to a stadium full of people with a microphone that wasn't on. Eventually I just felt like I was feeding their outrage. In some ways, contributing to creating a numbness to these current events.

What to do instead, then? The truth is, I don't have a definite answer yet. While I'll continue to engage in conversations around race in these especially volatile times, I'm consciously asking myself: What do I want to get out of this? I'll point my internal compass away from "to tell this person off." It's easy to tell someone off. I know that well enough to know that isn't "doing better."

  • Jose Alonso Munoz

I'm not alone in thinking 2017 brought about a lot of uncertainty. I felt a multitude of emotions throughout the year.

As I reflect, and try to focus on the good, I can't help but be excited by all of the things I learned about myself this year; all of the things I was able to experience this year. Which brings me to now: 2018. I'm not one to set resolutions, so I won't. What I will do, is give myself permission to make happen the things I've always wanted to make happen. Not just in 2018, but beyond. It starts with this website. Over the course of the next year I'm going to set out to tell as many stories as I possibly can. Stories about others, stories about myself. Anything that keeps me writing.

For a long time I thought of myself as an "aspiring writer." Never truly letting myself feel the power of the stories I could tell. Always needing permission, or validation from someone else. Any external source to give my work meaning. I'm done with that.

Last March, I was on a flight back from D.C. and I talked to the gentleman sitting next to me for a while. We exchanged casual pleasantries, but also, we talked about we we did, what we thought we would be doing, and what we ultimately wanted to be doing. I talked about my writing.

Donald Trump was a few weeks into his presidency, and after having spent the past year bashing immigrants, I was passionate about pursuing a story about how undocumented immigrants living in small towns in Trump Country were faring. For one reason or another, I let that passion die, falling back into the routine of my 9-5.

Then, Harvey Weinstein happened. I listened to the recording of him following a female actor into her hotel room, relentlessly pursuing her. It sent chills down my spine. I struggled to sleep that night as I was putting together all of my own thoughts. When I couldn't take it anymore, around 2 a.m., I took out my phone and started writing about my own experiences, which landed me on the front page of #HuffPostQueer (What Happened When I Reported Workplace Sexual Harassment Is Why People Choose To Stay Silent).

I sent out that piece to a few different publications, and heard back from a separate editor who asked me to pitch to him anytime. Eventually, I did, and am currently working on a piece I hope will be finished and published very soon. Stay tuned. In addition to that, I have two other pieces done and sent out for hopes of publication. Make no mistake, however, if they don't end up published, they'll find a home here.

Over the course of the next year, I hope to be able to document successes as I purse my writing career. I hope to continue to grow the list of pieces I've written and publications I've written for on this website. As for this blog, you'll see anything that doesn't make it somewhere else. Everything from art, culture, fashion, and tv. You might even see a few guest posts.