Inspiring Individual Spotlight: Tatianna Santos

photoformegI met Tatianna when I worked in the non-profit sector, teaching comprehensive sexual health to teens. The non-profit field is full of caregivers and passionate individuals who are so driven to fulfill the missions of their organizations, that many times, self-care falls by the wayside. In addition to being impressed by Tati’s ability to develop meaningful relationships with the youth we worked with, I appreciated her ability to recognize when she needed to rejuvenate and take a moment for herself. I asked her for an interview because I find her inspiring, she was kind enough to share some kernels of greatness.

What drew you to teach sexual health?

My initial draw towards the field was when I noticed the tie between comprehensive sexual health and gender violence. My first role as an educator was during college, where I facilitated mostly conversations about gender violence, including rape culture, consent, and healthy relationships. A lot of these talks always struck me as focusing so much on the harm that people experienced but never on what a happy, healthy, fulfilling, sexual life could be. Eventually our conversations made the shift to include more sex positive conversations, and I realized that I felt most fulfilled when I was addressing the culture of gender violence from multiple directions.

Can you recommend any books that cover sexuality, identity, and expression in an inclusive and comprehensive way?

Yes! One of my favorite books is “What Makes a Baby”, by Cory Silverberg. What I love most about this book is that to me it is so inclusive of all families, all gender and gender identities. Cory alongside Fiona Smyth (the illustrator), do a wonderful job in addressing topics like pregnancy, bodies, birth in inclusive and visually appealing ways. I highly recommend this book, especially to those with youth in their life.

Who are your professional and personal role models? What is it about each one that resonates with you?

In the hopes I don’t sound too cliché, my father is my biggest role model. He, alongside my mother, moved to a new country, not speaking the language, with two children under the age of ten in the search of “the American Dream”. My father is perhaps the most resilient person I know. He is continuously showing me the fruit of hard work. Still to this day, my father is my go-to person when I am in the need of some wisdom and a pick me up. He is careful to not tell me what I should do, or how I should spend my time. All that he asks is that I take care of myself and that I prioritize my happiness.

Professionally, my supervisor Julie LaBarr takes the cake! Even before she became my supervisor I had crossed paths with her multiple times and she always left an impression. So much so, that during the day of my interview for my current position, I might have possibly been more nervous about having to present in front of her than the interview itself. There is so much to be said about Julie; she is knowledgeable, caring, kind, hilarious, and supportive. What most resonates with me is that Julie does not shy away from talking about mental health. Often times from what I’ve seen in the non profit, direct service world, the expectation is that we are always giving, always giving more and more and pushing out boundaries—the more you give the more you care. With Julie, she understands that there are days that giving is tough, that some days you leave a classroom and you just need to cry it out. Knowing that I have a supervisor like that has made the world of difference.

What’s your self-care routine/regimen/philosophy? 

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” I came across this quote a long time ago and it’s truly become my truth. I remind myself of that every day, especially in those moments when my energy is going outwards so much that I am feeling like there is not any left.

My routine varies, I keep an ongoing list in my agenda, my “self-care” list. This is usually my go to when I need some sort of pick me up. I try to incorporate self care daily, some days it looks like setting my alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than usual so I can cuddle with my cat a bit longer in the morning, other days it means getting a slurpee at 3am. Self care, to me, means doing what feels right and fulfilling for me in the moment and not feeling guilty or selfish about it. Here are some of the things on my list:

  • Call home
  • Eat something sweet
  • Listen to “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes
  • Cuddle Bandit (my cat)
  • Turn off my phone
  • Cry
  • Watch a funny video online
  • Ask someone out for a walk
  • Take a long shower
  • Stretch

What would you say to someone who says they don’t have time or money to spend on self-care?

Money is not necessary for self care, not at all. There is absolutely privilege tied to being able to afford getting a massage, treating yourself to new things, attending concerts and all that – but those are not the end all of self care. Prioritizing you and taking care of yourself does not require taking your wallet out, sometimes all you need is one minute of taking deep breaths. Breathing goes a long way.

When it comes to time, my suggestion is to always add pieces of self-care to your routine. For instance, stretching while you brush your teeth, having a playlist of your feel good songs you listen to while you get ready in the morning. I even carry things on me that smell nice, like lavender oil, and sometimes that’s all I need to get through a tough moment.

Do you consider yourself spiritual? If so, what do you do to encourage your own spiritual growth?

I don’t know if I would consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in the Universe, and thank the Universe often. That’s my way of acknowledging a bigger larger connection and power that I can’t fully grasp. There are days that I feel like the Universe has it out for me, but it always seems to provide what I need just when I need it.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to living?

Live with intent.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to dying?

Celebrate your live and the life of others while you are still around.

Describe the last time you felt inspired.

Seeing my niece grow, her little successes like rolling over on to her belly or standing up for longer than 10 seconds are a constant reminder that life is full of little “wins,” and it’s okay to celebrate those too!

What are you grateful for these days?

I actually keep a gratefulness page in my journal and add to it often. Somedays I am grateful for a phone call from home, sometimes it’s my comfy cat lady socks. I used to think that being grateful was only reserved for the “big” things, like a job or a car. I shifted the way I approach gratefulness, these days it’s the little things that keep me going.

What are you working on letting go of these days?

I’m working on letting go of negativity in my life and unnecessary weight. I’m an energy sponge; if I’m around people or places that aren’t lifting me up my energy is sucked out.

What pop culture are you loving lately?

Anything that has to do with Beyonce, all the time.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

When people tell me that they know someone who is Brasilian, I like to pretend that their friend is my cousin.