Imagine sitting in a room with strangers while waiting for answers to some of life’s biggest questions. Why has life turned out this way? How did I end up in a job where I’m stagnant and dissatisfied? What have I done to deserve being with relationships that are not good for me? How is it that I continue making choices leading only to toxic situations?
I’ve been in a room full of people asking myself these questions. In fact, the familiarity with them is enough to make me cringe. It would not surprise me if you have experienced something similar, too. The good news is, there is something we can do about exiting this rut, as Cris Ramos Greene recently reminded me.
The book “Embrace That Girl” is both genuine and relatable. The author takes the reader on an emotional journey from youthful bewilderment to a transformation of her womanhood.
Greene is generous as she shares real-life experiences that arise while discovering the challenges of learning self-love and acceptance.
The writer is a second-generation Cuban-American raised in Miami while exploring life outside the boundaries set by old school parenting. Like many of us, she endured bad decisions, self-doubt, insecurity, and identity issues often tied to being Latina. The merry-go-round came to a halt when she was enlightened by personal revelations that flourished during a self-development training. The awakening takes place in that room full of unknowns. The outcome sparks what resembles a blank canvas where you choose what to paint for yourself in life.
On the other side of a Zoom meeting, the personable woman was unapologetic, confident, and fearless about the future. Her honest and friendly demeanor helped me feel at ease when initiating interview questions. The wisdom shared offered nuggets of knowledge gathered from the cumulative experiences from roads traveled. Many of the things the author talked about in her book and during our chat resonated with me, as I believe it will do for readers.
As a daughter of Dominican immigrants and raised in New York City, there is a lot about “Embrace That Girl” that I was able to connect to. The author displays some old sayings I heard as a kid, “Un clavo saca otro clavo” or “Dios aprieta pero no ahorca.” She also describes the feeling of the first time completing a census form.
The absence of a box for her people was a realization of how society does not recognize the Latino population’s true essence. It is something many of us still struggle with; recently, experiencing it with my daughter.
It was a pleasure to be introduced to this book and its author. Our interview felt more like a conversation between two friends. Hopefully, you experience Cris’s warm personality as she expresses her charmingly, honest answers.
You were raised in Miami, a vibrant city with an electric personality. Today your life is nestled in a quieter setting in North Carolina. Now that you have come to a place where you’re comfortable in your own skin but residing in a city with less diversity. How do you celebrate your culture to make sure you stay connected to where you came from?
Great question! In Miami, it’s easy to connect with my roots. Cubans live in many of the communities across Southern Florida. Most offer a lot of the same things that I grew up with at home with my parents. I don’t have the same luxury in North Carolina; although I like it here, there is less access to the familiarity I became so accustomed to in Florida. In order to stay connected, I listen to music that reminds me of my youth, such as artists like Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. I don’t cook the amazing dishes I grew up with. I’m trying to do more of it. Recently, I was so happy to discover a pastelito shop in my town! These are the little things that make up for missing the bigger ones, especially during a time we can’t travel due to a pandemic. It has been tough, as I don’t get to see family.
Latinos, particularly from the Caribbean, are sometimes known to dabble in the spiritual world. In your book, you share your experience with a tarot reader and feelings on reincarnation after your grandmother’s passing. I get the sense you are a spiritual person? If so, can you tell us where that comes from and how it has played a part in your life?
I attended Catholic School as a kid. I can’t say I practice Catholicism, but I have a strong belief that there is something bigger than us. There has always been a desire to connect, whether it is waking up to stars, being in the sun, or nature. We just all have different ways of linking to our higher being. The relationship I feel with the spiritual is not in question. I am just trying to define how I’m connecting.
You mention holding on to beliefs, relationships, and behaviors long after their expiration date. I think many of us do the same thing in our lives; we have that in common. “There is freedom lying on the other side of comfort.” I agree with your passage, so, what does freedom look like to the woman you are today?
It looks a lot like fearlessness or being comfortable with discomfort. There were consequences that came from not listening to my intuition. We get so used to people, situations, or behaviors so much that we settle, getting comfortable in places that are not necessarily good for us. Present-day, I trust myself more and I’m comfortable being seen for exactly who I am.
“Embrace That Girl” takes readers on your journey from a young lady to becoming a woman. Most of us have encountered self-doubt, poor choices, and questionable ones, but we learn and eventually move on. As a woman that has accepted her truths, what has been the most impactful lesson you have taken with you as a Latina woman?
I took part in a self-development seminar, and this quote stayed with me: “You are the person creating your life.” These are powerful words. For a good part of my life, I was the victim. I did not have a full understanding of what it meant to take control of my life by making different decisions. I have choices. I’m the one that makes the decisions to alter the direction I am heading. Life is going to happen no matter what; we can’t go back and change any of it. However, we can modify our perspective.
As a Latina, the biggest lesson has been the power in legacy. I can’t say I gave it much thought earlier in my journey, but my grandmother’s passing and learning about how brave she was changed a lot for me. I now appreciate the qualities that made her the strong woman she was, where she grew up, and how far she came in her life. I feel different and value who I am. Taking pride in the legacy that I leave for others is important.
You believe that the Universe gives us what we give out. You will get more of what you put out there. What do you put out into the world?
I like to see the good in people, trying to be optimistic as much as possible. Whereas I used to think there was never enough time, always stressed, left a trail of negative energy, and things would go south like a domino effect. It isn’t easy to keep the optimism going every day, but I try my best to put positivity out into the world.
In your 20s, you hunted for meaning. In your 30s, you thought you had it all figured out but realized you still have a blank canvas! How do you hope to fill that blank space?
It took a couple of years to write this book. I had to go back and remember a lot of things and do some introspection. In fact, I was still writing when the pandemic started. I’d like to continue being fearless and feel the discomfort; it’s where the biggest growth happens. The power I get comes from being uncomfortable but pushing through it is amazing. I am more empowered and able to say no to things that are not right for me. I use my voice, speaking up against what is not in my best interest. I hope to continue this path into my 40s but not take everything so seriously. Live life the way that makes me happy and challenge myself every step of the way.
You resisted, neglected, and questioned the girl in your shadow, but today you love, embrace, and forgive that girl. What would you say is the first and most important step towards embracing our girl?
Self-acceptance is the key to it all. Try to pay less mind to the negative judgments and listen to your inner voice.
Any last words for the readers of your book or this interview about embracing their truths?
Be-Do-Have. In life, we are taught that in order to BE what we want, we need to DO a list of things, but if we just do the best for ourselves, the opportunities to HAVE the things we desire will follow suit.