Home Alone with Comedian Lane Moore and Young DACA Recipient

Home Alone with Comedian Lane Moore and Young DACA Recipient (Photo: Marji Lang/Getty Images)

In this “Ridin’ Solo” episode of (that does NOT feature Jason Derulo) Adult ISH, co-hosts Merk Nguyen and Nyge Turner explore bumps that come up on the road to independence. Writer and musician Lane Moore lifts up people who are all by their lone selves by pushing aside broad advice. Juan Mireles-Palomar, a young DACA recipient, gets into conflicting feelings he has about finally living on his own and how his legal status plays a role in his future — and his sister’s. Be sure to follow all our socials at @yrAdultISH.

Scroll to the bottom for the full transcript of the episode.

Lane Moore’s No Bullsh*t Pep Talk

Comedian, music and writer Lane Moore poses in a doorway with both of her hands on the walls around her sides.
“It’s not about about being strong. What does that even mean? It’s about how you do or don’t value yourself.”
(Photo courtesy of Mindy Tucker)

Dealing with loneliness can be a freakin’ bummer. But it also has its perks. Just ask comedian Lane Moore who wrote a book titled “How to Be Alone.” Lane calls out generic advice we’ve all heard before and gives the ultimate mini TED Talk as a reminder for yourself in moments when you’re by yourself.

Dealing with DACA: Juan & Eva

Juan Mireles-Palomar, a gay 21-year-old recipient of DACA (also known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), sits on a bench smiling as he attempts to cross his legs.

“Whenever I’m on Twitter and I see DACA trending, my heart stops … The fear that it’ll be canceled is constantly on my mind.”
(Photo courtesy of Juan Mireles-Palomar)

Imagine this: two siblings, only two years apart, doing practically everything together. But only one has legal status. That’s how 21-year-old Juan Mireles-Palomar and his big sister Eva, grew up. He shares his and his sister’s experiences having legal status through DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), how they are getting by during the COVID-19 pandemic and the hopes/worries they have about the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the fate of DACA.

Juan’s story is part of an election collaboration between YR Media and WNYC’s Radio Rookies called “18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up,” which brings together young adults across the country to document their lives and what’s at stake for them in 2020. More stories and a website launch coming later this summer.

Episode Transcript

Nyge: So Merk, I don’t know about you, but my friends are always like, “Yo, I love the show but it’s just one thing I want to hear more of.” You know what that is?

Merk: Ummm … My wits or my lovely voice?

Nyge: Yeah, none of that. 

Both: (laughs)

Nyge: It’s more along the lines of like, “Yo, we get it. Y’all are out there living your best lives, out there moving and shaking in the world. But yo, let’s hear some of that ‘stare out the window while the rain drifts down’ talk that Nyge is always teasing. Let’s hear that ‘lonely, by myself’ talk.”

Merk: Yeah for reals, some of y’all have hit us up about this, especially nowadays with a lot of us kickin’ it by ourselves ‘cause of COVID-19! So you know what? We’re gonna do that with this episode called “Ridin’ Solo” featuring not Jason Derulo, ‘cause he’s too busy dancing on TikTok, but we love his song…

Nyge: We do not love his song, so chill out!

Merk: Okay, I love his song! You’re listening to Adult ISH produced by YR Media. I’m Merk.

Nyge: And I’m Nyge. When you think of the “solo life” what first pops into your mind?

Merk: The Green Day lyric where Billie Joe is like (sings) “I walk this lonely road…”

Nyge: Aye. Shoutout to the boy Billie, Bay Area’s finest. 

Merk: Billie Joe … I wonder if anyone calls him BJ? Anyway, because … What?!

Nyge: (sigh) We were doing so well. (laughs)

Merk: This is what people come to the show for. (laughs) The reason why that lyric pops into my mind is because even though we’re all in this adulting journey together, it’s something very individual. Everyone has their own unique struggles. And it can be really isolating. What about you?

Nyge: When I think about being alone, I think about a lot of learning and a lot of, like, healthy growth. When I’m all alone or I’m by myself, I got to tap into like, “Dang Nyge, how is your mental health?” Sometimes I don’t be feeling all that all the time. So, yeah. Sometimes I want to ignore it. But, it is something healthy. But, sometimes I just don’t be about the health life.

Merk: That’s something that I’m always tuning into, so I think I’m pretty different than you.

Nyge: Just like … not all the time. But anyway, clearly Merk and I don’t define riding solo in the same way. Your definition might be different too. And we’re gonna get into that with our guests today. 

Merk: Yeah, later in the episode you’ll hear a short story from our new friend, Juan Mireles-Palomar, who’s part of a special election project between YR Media and WNYC’s Radio Rookies. After that I chat with him about how getting DACA lets him “ride solo” but also how all of that is really uncertain with the current political climate.

Nyge: But first, we’re gonna bring on comedian and writer Lane Moore about living life solo, how to appreciate yourself, by yourself, for yourself. 

[Music Break]

Nyge: For me personally, when I’m alone for a long time, those thoughts and feelings of loneliness can arise and can take me to a pretty dark place where I’m feeling real Drake-y.

Merk: Oh, Drake-y. Okay, Audrey, when was your last Drake moment?

Nyge: Aubrey.

Merk: Aubrey. 

Everybody: (laughs)

Nyge: My last Drake moment. I mean, it’s been a lot of Drake moments in quarantine, just staring at these walls. You know, start thinking stuff and then they start slowly turning into thoughts and then they arrive at Drake lyrics. 

Merk: Well, luckily, we’ve got with us a writer, actor, musician and comedian Lane Moore, to help us figure our stuff out. She wrote a book called “How to Be Alone: If You Want To, And Even if You Don’t,” which is very fitting for many of us these days. She’s also the creator of a comedy show called “Tinder Live,” a show aimed to better our lives. Right? 

Lane: That’s true. That’s actually very, very true. That’s how I feel about the art that I make. I’m here to better your life, everyone’s life. The second that I got on Tinder, I was like, “This would make an amazing comedy show!” So what we do is: We — I always say “we” like there’s like 40 people! It’s my show. 

Merk: “It’s me.”

Lane: It’s me. It’s my show! What I do is I project my Tinder screen on two big projectors, so that everybody can see my Tinder and the audience votes right or left about who I should swipe on.

Merk: What?!

Lane: So it’s very interactive. The audience chooses. I’d like to say they choose my sexual destiny as a “choose your own adventure with my vagina.” It’s like that. We go through the profiles … me and the audience is what I mean by “we.” I have comedians, writers, Broadway stars, musicians, all these people on a panel with me. I’ve had the cast from “Orange is the New Black.” I’ve had David Cross, Janeane Garofalo. They help me analyze the profiles like, “Oh, what’s this guy’s thing?” It’s very, very good natured. We really only go after, you know … “go after.” But like, we really only talk to just like the weirdest dudes. The example I always use is a white guy with cornrows who’s name is Aymen. Like, that’s who we talk to. 

Merk: Oh, “homeboy.”

Nyge: So let’s talk about your book now. It’s a collection of essays from your personal life, right?

Lane: Yes! Very personal.

Nyge: I definitely can’t do it justice right now with the time that we have. But what are some big things that you would want people to know about the book if they haven’t read it? 

Lane: So many things! I think that as a world right now, we’re lonelier than we’ve ever been. We’re not connecting in the ways that we want to. We’re always on social media. It always looks like we’re having this wonderful time, but literally everyone I know, even the most famous internet people I know, are like, “I’m so lonely and so sad and I have no one and nothing and this is awful.” So I wanted to write a book about my perspective of my story. I raised myself. I didn’t have a really great family situation or any classic traditional ideal family situation. And so that’s really impacted how I’ve been able to connect with people in terms of making friends and even in jobs and relationships and things like that. So I really believe that so much of the ways that we connect or don’t connect comes back to what we grew up with. Once I started realizing, “Whoa, I am attracting friends who are like this family member and I’m only dating people who are like this family member,” this just blew everything in my mind wide open. I would say that’s the number one. The number two is, I really wanted to create a book that made people feel really seen and loved, and even if you truly feel like you have no one, this book will be able to be with you. This book will act as a friend. And the audiobook, as well, is designed to make it so that I’m telling you stories for seven hours.

Merk: And singing!

Lane: And singing! And I sing on it! Yeah. 

Merk: So our first question is about heartbreak, because it’s a big theme in your book. It’s a universal feeling that doesn’t always necessarily stem from romantic places, but it’s a bummer regardless. So we wanted your expertise on moving on from crappy people who’ve wronged you in your life or even your own negative mindset.

Lane: I mean, part of it is once you have that component … Again, it takes time and there is a lot of a lot of assistance in how to be alone, for how to do this. But I’ll try to summarize it as best I can. You know, in becoming your own best friend, you’ve, like, created a tool to help you through that. So you think about the advice that you would give a friend who was in your position. So much of the time, I think so many podcasts I’ve done, especially ones that are like call-in, you hear people asking these questions and it’s just like you want to turn to that person and just be like, “What? Why would you even put up with that person? This person is so clearly crappy!”

Merk: Agreed!

Lane: But, then I realized that I’ve done this. I’ve done this so many times where I’ve been dating this, like, human garbage pile and couldn’t get out of it. You have to peel that onion. So much of “How To Be Alone” talks about, “Oh! The bigger problem is not why can’t you leave this, why can’t you just get this done?” Because I bet that the sh*tty people that you’re attracting are probably like your parents or your sister or that person who, like, really screwed you up as a kid. This is just what our brains do. I could give you the dumbass advice that most people would give you that’s just like “Be strong! Move on, girl!” That advice is bullsh*t. I’m so bored by that! Like, it’s not about being strong. It’s finding fundamental truths. What’s underneath all of this? How do you value yourself or not value yourself? Like, it’s not doing anybody any good to just say some surface level bullsh*t. I hate most advice. It’s just so boring. Like, if it was just like, “Find your own strength!” Like, shut up! What does that even mean?! 

Merk: Go cut an onion! You know what I love? I feel this emerging metaphor is: life should be like cutting an onion. You’ve got to get through layers and cry a frick ton and make some good food with it. Food that you want to eat. Feeding yourself.

Lane: Feed yourself!

Merk: Feed yourself! (sings) Feed, feed, feed yourself! Love that. (laughs)

Nyge: You just went really deep with that metaphor.

Lane: (laughs) Feed yourself with your own tear-filled food. That is something that I actually put into practice. So you’re welcome.

Merk: Who needs salt when you have tears?

Lane: Yeah, that’s my liquid. When they’re like, “Do you have a broth?” I’m like, “I can make a broth.” Just make a broth of your own tears. Probably some vitamins. A little bit of mascara. You’re welcome. That was just a bonus recipe for the listeners.

Nyge: Right? (laughs)

Lane: Bonus soup recipe.

Merk: You can find it on Pinterest.

Lane: Yeah. You’re welcome.

Nyge: Yeah. I think all of us can get caught up in our head and get caught up in our thoughts. I think that’s a good thing when it’s about positive stuff. But then, when it’s about negative things, it kind of can get out of hand.

Lane: It’s just a loop.

Nyge: So what are some actual things that you can do to break yourself out of these bad thinking habits? 

Lane: Oh gosh, for sure. Some of it is just practice, because I can be so hard on myself, when I can’t break out of that and I’m in some loop and like what’s real and what’s not and what’s this mental illness versus what’s actually real. That is friggin exhausting. Honestly, for me, a big theme in “How To Be Alone” is that I found this magical dog. I really do believe in the power of animals, especially if people haven’t been that great to you and people can often not be that great. But, having her, she will just sit on the couch with me and I’ll be stuck in those loops and doing that horrible thing where you switch back and forth between Twitter and Instagram and you’re like, “When am I going to feel better?” And it’s like, “Never. Not that way.”

Merk: It’s the worst.

Lane: But I’ll just be going back and forth between the two and then I’ll just look at her and she just looks at me with this knowing smile like, “Hey, what the f*** are you doing?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t know, darling.”

Nyge: How to be alone: get a dog. 

Lane: I mean… 

Merk: Or a cat!

Lane: Or a cat! 

Merk: Or an iguana!

Lane: Whatever! There’s a lotta animals that need homes. If you’re in a place where that’s something that you can physically, emotionally and financially do? Man … And again, it can be a person too. It can be someone who checks in on you. It can be a frickin’ app that checks in on you. But just kind of like, having backup. I think that’s what it is. 

Nyge: I think something really interesting that you brought out was when you said, like, “What’s this mental illness and what’s actually real?” I think that’s really important. Even if you don’t have a mental illness or anything like that, you can get caught up in your own paranoia and your own thinking and what’s real life.

Lane: And your own patterns. Totally. Yeah. I think that all the time, where it’s like someone will tell me like, “Oh, well this is true.” And I’m like, “I don’t know if that is true. Maybe it’s true. I’m too tired.” And then I go to sleep.

Nyge: How do you organize those thoughts?

Lane: I don’t know. I just try to observe them. That’s really it. I’ve done a lot of meditation stuff, and I think that that’s something that…

Merk: I’ve started doing that recently and it has helped out so much.

Lane: Yeah. Just kind of observe them and try not to react to them. You know, kind of doing some corrective thinking is something I do a lot. And it’s exhausting, because, again, you’re just like, “Can I just, like, live my life and not have to constantly rewire my brain?” But for so many of us, like, we have a lot of programs in there. I mean, even if you want to get deeper, so many of us have sexist, racist, homophobic programing that’s not our own. And we have to constantly reprogram it. That’s okay. That’s good. That’s what being a good person is. 

Merk: Yeah. I mean, it can definitely be a process, but it’s absolutely necessary to do the work within ourselves. And, with that said, you wrote a letter from your future self to your past self in one of your chapters called “Happy Holidays, Except You, You Lonely Weirdo.” Actually, would you mind reading some parts of that?

Lane: Totally. Absolutely.

Merk: I guess whichever part of the letter really speaks to you right now.

Lane: “Yes, it’s totally normal if you get depressed before the holidays start. I usually get depressed like four days before pretty much every holiday, except Halloween!”

Merk: Aye!

Lane: I love Halloween. It’s my favorite. 

Merk: I do too.

Lane: (laughs) It’s the best. “And I always feel like, ‘What the f***? Why am I sad?’ It’s not even the day yet. And then I quickly realize, ‘Oh, this holiday is coming up. And this is a hard day for me. And my body knows it and is trying to prepare.’ Thanks body. I guess. More than anything, I want you to know that I care about you because I know you. Not despite the fact that I know you, but because I know you. Like, I know that you sometimes lie to people and tell them you have huge plans when your plans are to try to not get overwhelmed with the burden of your sadness and the reflection of everyone else’s socially normal happiness. And I forgive you for that lie because I know why you told it. So forgive yourself for it too. Last, you know when people say, ‘Take care,’ and you’re like, ‘What the f*** do you even mean?’ Well, take care. Take care of the part of you that wishes you had a normal family so badly it kills you. Take care of the part of you that will never understand why your family was the way they were or is the way they are or is no longer around at all. Take care of the part of you that feels ‘other’ throughout the holiday season. And, more than anything, feel proud of yourself because you didn’t let being ‘other’ kill you. You’re still here. And one day, maybe you’ll have a family of your own and you’ll love the holidays. Or maybe you’ll never like this time of year. Either way, you’ll still be here, living. And sometimes that’s the bravest thing of all. And if you don’t believe me, it’s a line in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer.’ And as I and I both know, that show is everything.”

Nyge: I think the coolest part is like how you just always bring it back to having a regular conversation with everybody. Like it’s not just like advice, advice, advice. It’s just like always “Okay, quick break.” And then you just talk to people. 

Lane: Yeah! I mean, I often joke that “How To Be Alone” is like a self-help book for people who hate self-help books. Because, it’s like, there is a lot of self-help stuff, but it also is meant to be a book that’s really funny and feels like you’re talking to a friend. That’s the type of writing I really love. 

Nyge: Yeah, it’s super cool. We love it too. 

Lane: Thank you.

Merk: Well Lane, thank you so much for helping us out a ton, giving us your insight and everything. All the things.

Lane: Yeah, all things. We talked about things! As I foretold!

Merk: Wheeee!

Nyge: Yes. We want so much “Moore” of you.

Lane: You know what? You have a friend in me for life! You like Halloween. You love puns. I am at home here in a way you don’t even know!

Merk: Ayeee!

Lane: Every time someone doesn’t make a pun about my last name, I’m like, “You’re lazy.” Changing lanes… 

Merk: They’re not living in the fast lane.

Lane: Yes! (cheers excitedly)

Merk: Get it, get it, get it! Shake it, shake it, shake it! I’m doing some of that right now! Heeey!

Lane: This is truly heaven.

Merk: Be sure to get a copy of Lane’s book “How To Be Alone” to keep you company. Or follow her on Insta and Twitter @hellolanemoore.

[Episode Break]

Merk: Alright y’all. The story you’re about to hear comes from Juan Mireles-Palomar. He’s a young reporter from an election project between YR Media and WNYC’s Radio Rookies. This collab is called 18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up and it brings together people across the country aged 18-to-29 to document their lives and what’s at stake for them in 2020.

Nyge: In Juan’s case, it’s his literal livelihood that’s on the line. Merk’s going to have a conversation about his journey straddling legal status and his uncertain future in the U.S. But first, here’s his story. Take it away, Juan.

Juan: How’s my mom?

Eva: She’s doing good. I went to her house the other day. Have you talked to her? 

Juan: This is my older sister Eva. She is someone I have always looked up to because she is a badass, resilient, and like my favorite Powerpuff girl, Buttercup. The green one. 

Juan: Yeah, she FaceTimed me and showed me her new house.

Eva: I know, I’ve seen it. I went over last week or two weeks ago. It’s hecka cute. Her kitchen is hecka big and Sofi has her own room. She was running around showing me her room and showing me all of her stuff.

Juan: Oh, I miss Sofi. She’s so cute…

Juan: When we were little, Eva and I would play all day outside until the sun came down. We both loved Rihanna, had the same taste in ice cream. In many ways we were the same, except for our legal status, which divided us. I was undocumented, while she had papers, which meant she had access to opportunities that I didn’t. 

(music plays)

Juan: In high school, the majority of my friends were already working and getting their driver’s licenses. But because of my legal status, I couldn’t. My sister Eva could though. She was a year older and she had first priority when it came to obtaining documentation. My parents paid for her to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, but they couldn’t pay for both of us.

Eva: Oh, it made all of the difference, having DACA. Having that now meant that I can go and pursue my dreams, go to college, get a job, earn money for myself, make myself an independent person. That just meant everything. It was a life changer, you know. 

Juan: That’s what I wanted too. But during my junior year of high school, my dad was unexpectedly deported back to Mexico. Without my dad around, my mom’s job at a flower nursery wasn’t enough to cover the bills and play for the DACA application of $495. Also, it was almost impossible for me to find a job without DACA. The only other option in Stockton, California was to go to work in the fields. So during my senior year, I got a job in a fruit packaging warehouse and I got paid under the table, like most undocumented field workers. 

(music changes)

Juan: Everyday after school, I rush over to this big stuffy warehouse and start packaging cherries. I stand at the same spot for hours, trying to move my hands and open the bags faster than the cherries falling on the ground. I’m exhausted. And I’m thinking to myself, “Why is this my only option? Why can’t I just have a regular job like my friends or Eva? And can this damn machine slow down?!” 

Eventually the bell rings, notifying us it’s time to clock out. By now, It’s 1 a.m. I go home and start whatever homework I have due the next day. This was my routine my senior year. School. Work. Grieve for my dad in silence. Repeat. My goal was to save up for my DACA application, but the reality is most of the money went to help around the house. As my senior year was coming to an end, it became more urgent. I was scared I would have to put off college. But then I got a surprise.

Juan: (paper crinkles) Here’s the note I got…”Sometimes the American Dream comes true … with a little help. Never stop dreaming. From: those who believe in you.”

Juan: As a graduation gift, my teachers pooled money together to pay the full amount of my DACA application. I was so overwhelmed with emotions, I couldn’t believe it! I turned in my application just before Trump’s election. It would take nearly a year until I finally received my official Employment Authorization Card. I finally had temporary legal status. I immediately applied for a job, opened a bank account, got my drivers license, saved up some money and moved out of my house to the city. 

All the things I wanted to do but couldn’t before getting DACA. I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities I now had, or at least temporarily had. So I was able to find a job at a fashion boutique store and a place to live, I was able to buy my own bed and my own furniture. I was doing things all on my own. On the other hand, my sister? She let her DACA expire. She didn’t want to continue paying the money. We ended up on opposite paths again.

Eva: Now I’m looking at it like you’re so dumb. “You should have just paid the five hundred dollars.” It was so hard for me after that. I struggled more without it. [Back] then, I would have struggled without those five hundred dollars at the time. 

Juan: She had to move back home, and lost some of the independence I admired in her. I got a taste of what my sister went through once the coronavirus pandemic hit. I was starting to feel comfortable in my new adult life when the governor ordered the closure of non-essential businesses. Clearly that meant my job at the boutique would close, and I was furloughed. The idea of losing my job scared me, and I figured I’d be back where I started. Then I learned that I would be eligible for unemployment benefits through the state of California, something my sister Eva can’t access because of her current status.

Eva: No government aid, no government funding, nothing because I’m not documented.

Juan: Despite her legal status, my sister is still working. She works at a restaurant in Stockton.

Eva: Luckily my work didn’t get shut down but I know other jobs did, a lot of other restaurants did. My hours have gotten cut about like five to six hours a week and now I need as much hours as I can. Because I just moved out but yeah, this thing has cut back on my hours. Coronavirus. (laughs)

Juan: (laughs) I totally feel that. They completely cut my hours.

Eva: I know, you lost your job! It’s crazy. That’s why I’m fortunate to have mine and I’m fortunate to have the hours that I do have and I’m just hoping for it to go back to normal because I want to work my full hours. 

Juan: This lockdown is more than a matter of health for families like ours. It’s about whether or not there will be food on the table or even a place to live. If you are undocumented, you don’t qualify for the Federal CARES Act, which provides economic assistance for U.S. citizens. But in April, Governor Newsom announced his plan to get $75 million in statewide funds for immigrant families impacted by COVID-19. However, it’s not clear if my family will get any of those limited funds. So we still have reason to worry.

Eva: If I stopped working that would mean my income would completely stop. I would have no income at all. Because unlike citizens who lose their job and can go and sign up for unemployment and receive some money to help them, I can’t.

Juan: The truth is, even if both of us had DACA, my sister Eva and I are both still in limbo. This program for young immigrants like us has been debated in Congress and threats to end it are ongoing, with the Supreme Court planning to announce its fate soon. But for now, my sister and I have each other’s back no matter what, even though we still can’t decide on which Rihanna song is best.

[Music Break]

Merk: Alright, Juan. Thanks for being here today and for sharing your story with us.

Juan: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be telling everyone my story.

Merk: Yay! Alright, so, first question, what kind of fashion boutique do you work at? 

Juan: So it’s a really small business. It’s pretty up and coming. It’s family-run, which is really cool, with the environment in mind.

Merk: You got to make Mother Nature happy while lookin’ good.

Juan: Exactly. 

Merk: But I got to know, like, what is it that I could buy there? Like a long flowy dress for the summer or…

Juan: I think we’re getting in some cute, like, paper bag shorts that I love a lot. Like with the drawstring. 

Merk: Oh yeah!

Juan: Super cute. And we have dresses with all sorts of floral print and all sorts of designs and stuff. 

Merk: Oh, you know I love floral print. You can see in the Zoom call. I’m totally rocking floral.

Juan: I know. It’s so cute! I feel like you would love the clothing that’s in our store.

Merk: Yes! So have they called you back into work yet at the fashion boutique since all of this has happened? 

Juan: Yeah, they have. They’ve called me in [to start] in about a week or two. So I’ll be headed back soon finally, after this “very long vacation.” 

Merk: How are you feeling about going back in? 

Juan: Still a little nervous because, you know, COVID is still going around. But my job has been doing a good job of putting and acting good safety measures to make sure that we’re all safe. So I think I’ll be fine. 

Merk: Speaking of help, your teachers, they helped you and they knew about your undocumented status, but what about your peers and your friends? Did you tell them or did some of them just find out? 

Juan: So most of my close friends, they knew since the beginning. Some, however, only found out when I had my end of the year senior project. And my senior project was a slam poem that I slammed in front of almost my entire senior class.

Merk: Oh my God!

Juan: And the slam poem was about the idea of the American Dream and how it’s unachievable for many people like myself. It talked about what it’s like to be undocumented. And, at the time, seeing Trump’s rise to the Republican nomination and then sort of projecting that out towards them. Some of them didn’t know. And some of them later on came up to me and said, “How can I learn more about what it’s like to be undocumented and how to help undocumented people?”

Merk: Can you give us a little taste of what the poem was like? Like, what’s your favorite slam line from it? I don’t know if I’m saying that right…

Juan: My favorite line would have to be this line that was in the beginning of the poem. It says, “You won’t always have your dad by your side/ to show him the accomplishments you make/ You’ll just have to imagine your dad’s face/ when you show him your high school diploma/ or show him the boy you’re taking out on a date/ But life isn’t as great/ as you think it when you’re eight.” And that kind of goes back to when I was eight years old, you know, I had my dad around me and I never really thought that I would have to sort of go through my teenage years and go through the rest of my adulthood not being near him and not going through these sort of big life moments with him. I came out as gay when I was in my junior year, shortly after he actually got deported. And that was when I wasn’t able to get the courage — and find the courage within me — to come out at the time before he was deported. And it wasn’t until after when I realized that life changes really quickly and things come unexpectedly. And so, holding that inside me as a secret and possibly having other family members get taken away from me without expressing my true self to them scared me. So that’s when I kind of realized I need to come out. 

Merk: Wow. That’s a lot of big stuff to go through. Just one right after the other. Just to pivot a little bit here, there are nearly 650,000 people enrolled in the DACA program right now. Many are on the front lines of COVID relief efforts in health care and food services and other essential jobs. And then there’s the conservative-leaning Supreme Court who’s supposed to announce, any day now, a decision on what will happen to DACA. Has it come to the point where you and others you know are checking your phone every day for updates? Kind of like people waiting for their college acceptance letters, but also not because this is an even bigger life date? (laughs)

Juan: (laughs) It’s a constant anxiety that we feel. Like, whenever I’m on Twitter and I see DACA is trending, my heart stops and then I have to read what it says. It’s usually always something like, “No announcements. Soon…” But that fear that I’m going to read the news on my Twitter that says “DACA is canceled.” It’s constantly something on the back of my mind and constantly something that keeps me up at night. Because once it’s taken away, I have nothing. 

Merk: So, real talk, given this really intense social political climate right now, how do you think the court is going to rule?

Juan: I have a little bit of hope, but, in reality, I don’t know. It’s hard to think … It’s hard to see it, because usually when a Supreme Court takes this long, it means that they’re really, really, really contemplating it. And I don’t like to think about it because I’m just … I want to be as hopeful and optimistic. But, yeah.

Merk: This is a tough question, especially because you mentioned you don’t want to think about it. But, if the court does decide to shut down DACA, have you thought about what’s next for you? Like, do you have friends around whose house is that you know you can go to no matter what or a community in Mexico?

Juan: I do have a support system sort of set up with my family. But in reality, if worst comes to worse, I would probably just end up having to do regular fieldwork. Like, going back to working for a packaging warehouse and doing other sorts of jobs many undocumented immigrants and most undocumented immigrants do. But I just feel like I have much more to offer, even though that’s like essential work. But it’s something that … I don’t think I would ever want to do for a long time because it’s tough.

Merk: So what is it that you would want to do? In this world that is full of hope and the Supreme Court says, “Yes, DACA stays. It’s going to get even better.” Like, what would be the dream for you?

Juan: That would be a dream, huh? That would be amazing. My hopes would be to continue with my school. I took a year off of school to sort of figure out my path, which is what led me here to San Francisco. And so I would continue my schooling and majoring in political science and maybe minoring in journalism, because given this opportunity, it’s really…

Merk: Given this story you just told!

Juan: Yeah! Given this opportunity to tell my story, it’s really been helping me get a voice and figure out how to get that voice out there.

Merk: Okay, last question, but definitely not least. What is your favorite Rihanna song? Mine is probably “American Oxygen.” But I love and live for, all my friends know this, “This Is What You Came For.” Her feature in it.

Juan: Those are good songs. I love those. I love “Oxygen.” But I would say mine is “Needed Me.” I’m always like cooking and I’m like (sings) “youuu.” 

Both: (laughs)

Juan: I won’t try and sing it, but yeah, that’s me. My sister may not agree, but oh well. 

Merk: Thank you for reminding me what songs to jam out to after this. And again, for sharing your story, Juan.

Juan: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Merk: Again, Juan’s story is part of a project called 18-to-29 Now: Young America Speaks Up. You can find more stories later this summer when the website launches but for now follow Juan on Twitter @illegalqueer. 

[Music Break]

Nyge: Hmmm … not that anyone asked, my favorite Rihanna song is definitely “Higher.” (sings) “You take me higher, higher than I’ve ever been, babe.”

Merk: Beautiful way to end the show on a quite literal high note!

Nyge: You’re welcome.

Merk: Thank you, Nyge, for that. And to all you listeners on your own solo adulting journeys, for listening to us on Adult ISH, produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation.

Nyge: Our thank yous today go out to our Senior Producer Davey Kim, sound engineers Cari Campbell and Galnadgee Joe-Johnson, Executive Producer Rebecca Martin, all the young people at YR who made the art and music for this episode and special shout out to Denise … I was gonna tear her last name up!

Merk: You got it!

Nyge: And special shoutouts to Denise Tejada for editing Juan’s story and holding it down with her kids during quarantine and giving Merk eyebrow tips. 

Merk: Heck yes!

Nyge: We love you and shoutout much love. Much love to you. 

Merk: My brows are gonna look bomb at the next Zoom meeting, Nyge. Just you wait! (laughs) If you’re not following us on all the socials yet, get your phone out if it’s not in your hands already, and do the thing @YRadultISH. And if you’re less of a social media person, we get it, maybe you’d rather just come to our website AdultISHpodcast.com. 

Nyge: Don’t forget to rate our show with five stars on iTunes and if you send us screenshot proof that you’ve done that for all of our episodes this season, me or Merk will personally mail you a thank you note along with a special treat. Maybe not right away ‘cause of quarantine and social distancing but, it will happen eventually!

Merk: Yeah, I went to 99 Ranch Market. I got some sweet spicy goodies. So, do that! We’re also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX. An independent listener-supported collective of some of the shows that bring you (sings) “higher” in all of podcasting. 

Nyge: (sings) “Higher than I’ve ever been, baby!” 

Merk: Yeah, what he said. (laughs) Find them at Radiotopia.fm.

Nyge: Before you go, we’ve got some bittersweet news to share. Next week’s episode is our last one for this season, but we’re bringing on a very special guest who, in my opinion, dropped the craziest album this year so far and will give you major throwback vibes.

[Teaser Audio]

JoJo: “Broke In A Minute” became my freakin’ song of this year. When he put it out I was like (sings) ‘I ain’t been broke in a minute, don’t get offended … Ooh!’ I loved it.

Nyge: If you don’t recognize her voice yet, maybe Merk can help remind you.

Merk: (sings) Get out, right now, it’s the end of you and me!

Nyge: (laughs) Yawwwp, we’re gonna have R&B singer JoJo with us!

Merk: Yesss, JoJo the legend! 

Nyge: The legend.

Merk: But, for right now, it’s (sings) the end of the episode (laughs) so we’ll talk to y’all later!

Nyge: Yeah. Don’t be surprised if listeners tell you to stop singing on this next episode! But, me too! I been going off. I’m guilty of it too. But that’s it for now. Bye! 

Merk: (laughs) Who keeps pushing the phone tone? Ew, I’m drooling now.

Nyge: Ooh.

Merk: My throat really does hurt. I was meant to speak, not sing.

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