Carla Urdaneta: Writer and Poet
In 20 Years (from The Art of Learning to Stay)
I don’t want to need you later. I know we happened, I know we are over, and I know you let me go, but I also know I loved you with a measure that I didn’t know was possible. And I don’t want to want you when I have someone else.
I don’t want your shadow to be the cast to which I compare him, because half of what I know about you is in my head, but most importantly, because he will not deserve it. Because one random morning, as he’s sitting on our bed putting on his shoes, he will be telling me about Jim at work, and how he chews loudly when he eats during meetings. And I will not be thinking about Jim or meetings, and I will not be thinking about deadlines or parking spaces, and I will not be thinking that if I don’t hurry, I’m going to be late.
Because I will be thinking about your hands, and how mine used to it perfectly in between your fingers, but you clenched your fist. I will be thinking about your long, full eyelashes, and how I always hoped our kids would get them. I will be thinking about your wicked sense of humor, and how you were one of the few people to ever make me cry from laughter.
In 20 years, I will be thinking about the universe, and how we ended up running into each other in this big city, like two galaxies trying to become one, until one day, the universe pulled us apart. Until one day, we didn’t anymore.
While my husband talks about Jim and his chewing, I will be thinking that even though we loved each other with every single fiber of our beings, I will be there, sitting on that bed, and you will not. And I’ll be reminded once again that deep, beautiful, irrational love, is never enough.
Tell me a little bit about yourself (Introduce yourself).
I’m Carla Urdaneta, I grew up in Venezuela, and I’m a writer. If I were to describe myself in three words they would be: curious, frank, and disciplined.
Tell me something interesting about yourself.
I was convinced (and my family, too,) that I wanted to be an architect for the first 17 years of my life. I took a summer course on it and I hated it with a passion.
How did you get into writing and why did you choose it as a career?
I have my high school History teacher to thank for that. After the unfortunate realization that I actually hated doing the work of my dream career, I had to go back to the drawing board (no pun intended). My senior year of high school, I asked him for a little bit of life advice, and as we were talking about what topics I liked the most from his class (which weren’t many, to be honest,) I told him I was interested in World War II, the Ministry of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, and all of that. I told him how I thought it was crazy that they were able to do so much harm just with propaganda, messaging, and events. He then told me that I could literally do that same thing (just for good, obviously, and not for evil,) as a career and introduced me to… advertising. I hadn’t even considered it as a career because it’s not a traditional architect-doctor-engineer type major I was so used to seeing in third world countries.
What is it you love most about it?
The thing I love the most about writing is that through sharing my pieces, I know that one, I’m not alone and other people feel this way, too, and two, I help others put into words what they’re experiencing but didn’t have the language to articulate. To me, writing serves as a kind of catharsis, because it helps me verbalize my feelings, experiences and situations, and at the same time lets others know that they’re not alone, and they never will be.
Does being Hispanic influence your writing at all? How?
Absolutely. Beyond not knowing whether to write out a post or a poem in English or Spanish as soon as I come up with an idea, I think the struggle behind being Latinx and a woman influences my writing. My background on family, on what it means to leave home, on what it means to miss a place so badly but not wanting to go back because you know you’re better off—I think that makes up a large part of my writing spirit and being Hispanic has a lot to do with that.
Who/what has inspired you the most in what you do?
My grandpa wrote me a poem the day I was born, and I memorized it since I was like five. He never encouraged me to write, directly, but I grew up appreciating literature and language because I saw him read and write so much. Other than that, every single one of the brave souls, (mostly women), that dare to put their words out in the world and craft beautiful pieces that speak on complex topics like heartbreak, abuse, immigration, and womanhood.
“I won’t shrink for your comfort.” It’s my life motto and I really try to remind myself not to take up less space just because someone else is uncomfortable with my boundaries, my words, or my personality.
Any words of wisdom for young writers?
If you write about love, heartbreak and personal things like that, it takes a lot of courage to be able to firstly, write, and look at all those ugly and dark feelings right in the eye. Secondly, it takes a lot of balls to share it with others. But when you push past the embarrassment or the nerves, when people read your work and message you in tears because you made them feel so understood and so heard, it will have all been worth it. I can promise you that much.