Gomez (The Cilantro Diaries, 2017), chairman of Geekdom and co-founder of the 80/20 Foundation, reveals how anxiety shaped his early years in this wellness memoir.
The author grew up in San Antonio, where his parents made sure that he gained admittance to Tafolla Middle School, the “Harvard of Middle Schools.” In 1993, at the age of 12, he began sixth grade there in a state of fear that he couldn’t articulate to others: “I was so afraid and had so much anxiety during those three years of middle school that I completely blocked out my memories of that time,” he recalls. It was only years later, in therapy, that the author discovered the anxiety of his early adolescence was at the root of the addiction, anger, and depression that he experienced as an adult. This book is an attempt to recover and reconcile his middle school memories for his own edification and to help young teenagers who may be going through similar difficulties. The author describes living his life as one of seven children, dealing with local gang members, learning Latin in school (his mother wouldn’t let him take Spanish, as “she was told that if they didn’t speak English, the school would not accept” her kids), and listening to 1990s alternative rock. Every chapter ends with a letter from Gomez to his 12-year-old self, whom he refers to by his nickname, “Lench” (short for “Lorenzo”), and offering him advice he wishes that he’d heard at the time. Gomez is a fine storyteller, and his anecdotes are inflected with appealing humor; when his Spanish-speaking grandmother heard about his mother’s directive regarding Latin class, she quipped, “Who’s he going to speak Latin to? The Pope?” He’s also an adept communicator of emotion, which comes through most clearly in his “Lench” letters: “My point is that there is no ceremony when you graduate from a young person into being an adult. So consider this letter your Adultness Diploma.” Young readers who find themselves struggling with anxiety and older readers still sifting through the problems of their teenage years will find value in this openhearted work, which captures a specific time and place in vivid, neon colors.
A thoughtful, entertaining memoir of a troubled youth.