Poet Gretchen Gomez Gets Honest About Heartache & Knowing Your Worth
Sometimes you hear a song, view a piece of art, or read something that hits so close to your soul, it almost feels uncomfortable. You feel exposed, heard, and understood in such a way that it's overwhelmingly cathartic. Such is the case with "love, and you," the debut book of poetry from Gretchen Gomez.
Raised as a pastor's daughter in the Bronx, Gomez discovered a love for writing at an early age. Writing was her comfort, a space where she could discover and express herself. In "love, and you," Gomez brings readers through a journey of love, heartbreak, and self-discovery. She puts her pain on the page so eloquently that it feels painfully familiar. She's her own protagonist, coming out of the quicksand of a toxic relationship and eventually finding love again, with herself.
MBG spoke with Gomez about her creative journey and lessons she learned along the way.
It's so great to speak with you. Tell us, how was "love, and you" born?
I went through a really hard time in my life. Writing has always been a way for me to express myself, almost like therapy. Growing up, I wasn't encouraged to share my writing. I really started writing poetry at the age of 11, and when I would share it with others, they would shoot me down. It really affected me. It's like I had to hide myself. So I hid my poetry because of the negative reactions I got. But when I went through this particular hard time, it just flowed out of me. I couldn't keep it in. It was really nerve wracking sharing my work at first, but I received so much positive feedback that it helped me move forward.
What have you learned about yourself through the process of writing this book?
I learned that I really love to write and that I want it to be my career. As a Latina, it's important that we create our own narratives, not one written by others.
Tell me about growing up a pastor's daughter. Was there a certain standard that you had to live up to?
Growing up, yes! And even now, I get scrutinized way more as a female than my male counterparts. There's an expectation of how a woman should act, talk, and behave. But who says? I've always questioned everything. I never take things at face value. Now, my family supports me in whatever decisions I make, but they always say, "as long as you do it in the path of the Lord." But, of course I question it. Is God real? A lot of stuff has happened in my personal life that has made me question God.
Have you abandoned your religious beliefs?
I am open. I believe in a higher power, but I wouldn't consider myself religious. You know, as long as I'm living a healthy life and am true to myself, that is what's important.
What would you tell your younger self?
That she will make it out alive. That she's strong.
What would you ask your future self?
I don't even know!
What do you see her doing?
I see her doing the most that she could to keep on following her dreams. Living a nice, calm, mentally healthy, and free life.
You mention personal trauma in your past and the importance of being mentally healthy. Mental health is such a tough subject in the Latino community. Do you have advice for Latinas who struggle with mental health?
Yeah, in the Latino community, mental health isn't really discussed. I would say seek help. For us [Latinas] it's like taboo to go to therapy to seek help. But it's okay. It's okay to find ways to cope, you have to! We live on the go so much that we often don't take a break. We [Latinas] are always taking care of others. Take a day off. Take a self-care health day. Take care of yourself. We like to hold onto things that aren't doing us well because that's our culture. It's okay to let go, it's okay to put yourself first. Our family is such a foundation, and sometimes we fear doing something because we fear our family own't like it. It's okay to put yourself firs.t
Yes! As Latinos, our identity is so wrapped up in our family that sometimes it's hard to make decisions based on yourself and what you want.
That's true. Family is so important, but you can't base your life around what will make them happy or not. You've got to put yourself first. It's not selfish.
Who is "love, and you" written for?
I've dedicated it to all the women who've been through hurtful relationships. It's about overcoming toxic relationships - the hurting, the learning, and the healing. It's about how I discovered who I was. I found someone to fall in love with -- me!