Illustrated portrait of Joaquim Joaquim Pereira
Student, writer, Swiftie, aspiring world traveler

Cover illustration for "The Future is Unwritten".

Right now I’m trying to figure out what kind of person I want to be. When I was younger, I thought of myself more as a character being written by other people. I thought of myself in terms of movies or telenovelas, because it’s what I grew up with. I was a character written by my family, my parents. I never really thought that I would take my future into my own hands, which is what I seem to be trying to do at the moment. Just the fact that I’m the person making the decision is something I wouldn’t have thought was possible.

Coming of age in this era has been contradictory, especially because of the pandemic. Obviously, there was a lot that we ended up missing. I didn’t get to speak at my graduation like I was supposed to. I had always dreamed of that moment—but it didn’t happen. Things like that definitely make me upset, but at the same time, maybe because they happened so often, I just kind of learned how to suck it up, you know? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve learned how to live so that, yes, I’ll be crying and depressed at night, but then I wake up and suddenly life is beautiful because I have to move on.

Illustration of a laptop with illuminating screen.

One of the things that I hold onto is that historically speaking, every time there is a strong movement of oppression, there’s also a strong movement of fighting back. Not that many years ago my mother wouldn’t even have been able to be born because my grandparents are different ethnicities. And then I also wouldn’t have been able to be born because my own parents are different ethnicities. So the fact that I exist at all is evidence to me that things can change relatively quickly. I try to remind myself that even if something really dark happens today, a year from now, everything might be the opposite.

I find a lot of solace in music. K-pop mostly and also Taylor Swift. Some artists like IU, I just love the deep lyricism and raw emotion that can be felt even if you don’t really understand the language. You can read what the lyrics are about or you can just hear the way the words are being pronounced; softly when it’s sad or harshly when it’s meant to be angry. I find a sense of community within the fandom too. If I’m upset because something happened in my romantic life, which, you know, seems to happen every week, I can look for support there, especially among Swifties because most of her songs are about heartbreak.

I write for my school paper. How I write really depends on the scope of a story and who it is being told to, because I realize even if I’m telling my own story, I’ll show different facets of myself to different people. So writing gives me agency. I’m the person determining what’s being said and how it’s being said. The stories that I particularly like to write are ones that evoke emotion. I wrote this story about a local festival and I got to talk to people about why it mattered so much to them. I got to ask, how did you feel about it? What did you learn? I really enjoy finding out who people are, what they care about, and how they’re connected.

When I was six, I was still living in Brazil and my parents were separated already so on weekdays I was in the city and on the weekends I went to my dad’s farm. I wasn’t allowed to use the internet at that age so I spent a lot of time watching children’s telenovelas. You know, like Chiquititas? It took place in an orphanage and basically there was a rich old man whose daughter fell in love with a poor guy and got pregnant. He didn’t like that so he tried to kill the guy and hide his daughter’s baby and then he opened an orphanage so he could raise his granddaughter without her knowing she was part of the family. In hindsight I’m like, how was that appropriate for children? Anyway, since I can remember, my dad’s dream was to remain in Brazil and my mom’s was to leave. So I’ve known for a long time that it was going to happen. Did I know when or what it would mean? Absolutely not. While I waited to find out, I just kept watching Chiquititas.

Joaquim's Quote: “Writing gives me agency. I'm the person determining what's being said and how it's being said.”

Creating my own family is something that I really want to do in the future. I see myself with a partner and kids. I also see myself in a big city because my whole life I’ve been in smaller town settings and I just think they don’t allow me to grow or to fly as far as I want to. I imagine myself working for something multinational because you get to travel and you get to say things like, oh yes, I was in France last week.

Line art depicting a headphone.

This summer, when I went to California, to me it felt almost like an international trip just because I was crossing different time zones and culturally, it’s just a different place. And I guess, feeling limited in where I can go has helped make me dream of a future where I don’t have to be limited. A future where if I feel like it, I can just go to the airport and go to, I don’t know, Tanzania, for example.

Being undocumented, I notice I’m always more mindful of things that might be roadblocks for some people that others might not even consider. Last school year, there was a big discourse over whether or not we should require students to get clearances if they wanted to run for office in our Latino student organization. And I was like, well, if you’re making them get clearances, wouldn’t that push some people out of the way? It seemed like no one else had thought of that but me.

Some of the roadblocks I face in my life are inherently because of my status. Even if I were to talk about them with my close friends here, they wouldn’t understand certain things, you know? It’s not their fault, they just wouldn’t get it because they haven’t lived it.

Joaquim's Quote: “I imagine myself working for something multinational because you get to travel and you get to say things like, oh yes, I was in France last week.”

Obviously, my life would’ve been a hundred percent easier if I wasn’t undocumented or if I wasn’t queer, but in a way it also made me a stronger person and I guess also somewhat smarter than I think I would have been otherwise. I’ve always had to come up with alternatives for things. I’ve always had to just figure it all out as best I could.

Seeing more and more undocumented people sharing their stories, it makes me feel hopeful just because nine times out of ten, the stories being shared have some kind of happy ending. It makes me think that maybe I’ll get my own happy ending. You know, like when the character gets either what they want or what they didn’t know they needed.

About the Storyteller: Born in Brazil and now living in the Northeastern United States, Joaquim* was a participant in Immigrants Rising’s LGBTQ Wellness Support Group.

*Name was changed to protect his identity

Read more stories from The Future is Undocumented series.

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