Dhayana Alejandrina is a Dominican poet, storyteller, mental health advocate, and writing mentor. Now residing in Georgia, Dhayana continues to pour into her literary work that dives deep into spirituality, culture, and mental health. She is the author of Agridulce, a book of poetry and prose that highlights the importance of acknowledging our emotions, experiences, what we hold and carry, and how we use all these to help find our path to self-awareness and discovery.
Dhayana sat down with me to share more about her story, her journey as an author, what she is learning through her writing that’s allowing her to be her whole and honest self, and how she wants to continue using her writing to inspire and encourage others to pour into themselves and honor their commitments to self-love.
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1AND1: You’re a storyteller, poet, and mentor. Can you tell me more about how you began writing and the moment you realized you had a story to tell, through writing especially?
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Dhayana: At the beginning of my journey, it was just something that came naturally when I lived in the Dominican Republic. I used to mostly write quotes, such as love-themed quotes or poems. These were meant for the person I liked then, and it was a way for me to express my feelings and emotions. I remember writing in my diary that I hope for the day somebody write for me the way I write for them. Writing was a safe place and an outlet for me to get my thoughts out and explore my emotions.
I owe a lot of my writing to my father, too. When I lived in the DR, my dad used to write me letters (and still does) for my birthday. I was introduced to creative writing by him, and then, as I got older, I got more serious about writing; it helped me connect more with myself when I felt lost and was a way for me to process everything that was happening in my life when I moved to the United States.
1AND1: When it came to processing and mental health, did writing almost act as a therapy for you? Were you able to connect to yourself more through writing?
Dhayana: Writing, for the most part, has always been therapy for me. However, I did start going to therapy consistently a year and a half ago. There were certain things I couldn’t work on by myself, and I wanted to talk them out with someone. It helped tremendously, but I credit writing as my first outlet for healing.
For a long time, though, I wasn’t writing out everything I felt because I wasn’t ready to accept much of what I was feeling or because I didn’t want to write it out because I was afraid to put those thoughts on paper.
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But once I accepted that I made mistakes, that I didn’t deserve something that happened to me, or that I hadn’t been treating myself the way I deserved, etc., it was easier for me to really pour out everything, especially things I wasn’t able to tell others. Through that honesty and those examinations, I could start writing out manifestations, my prayers, and my intentions because I wasn’t afraid—I was being real with myself and calling back the parts of me that needed grace.
1AND1: Once you started finding ease, fearlessness, and peace in acknowledging your thoughts and putting them on paper, did you find more courage in sharing these thoughts or your feelings with others? Was it scary sharing some of those intimate thoughts for the public to see?
Dhayana: Yes, that was an adjustment for me. My biggest fear was, “What if the person this is about reads it?” But when it came to strangers reading my work, I wasn’t scared of that. I felt like I was prepared for that once I started to post my writing in 2018. That’s when I created my Instagram after sharing a couple of poems with people at work.
At the time, I was living in Japan, and after I shared some of my writing with them, they told me how good it was and that I should create a page for it. It’s interesting and funny to think about that time because that profile didn’t even have my real name under it. I was incognito (chuckles). Once I started dedicating more time to that page, I noticed many people felt what I felt and weren’t alone with certain emotions. Then, it became natural for me, and I wasn’t scared of sharing it because I was ultimately doing it for myself.
Sharing my writing has pushed me not to dim my voice, although it could be uncomfortable for someone else. I know my why and story, so I can’t hide it. And, of course, when I share these things, I’m still very considerate of other’s emotions, and I’ve learned how to navigate still sharing what’s important to me without feeling the need to satisfy someone else by deeming my true feelings. That was an aspect I had to overcome and find validation in my perspective. I don’t want to feel any blockage or do anything that doesn’t make me feel like me.
1AND1: What did you feel when you had this blockage? How do you think you transformed after getting rid of that blockage?
Dhayana: I feel more confident, which didn’t happen overnight. When I didn’t share what was happening within me or even just acknowledge it, I felt a lot of frustration and resentment. I felt like no one understood me, but that’s because I was afraid to express it or that I would be judged because of how I felt.
I used to be somebody who let their emotions speak for me. My emotions would be so strong, and I don’t think it’s bad to be emotional. Still, there is a level to that, especially when someone is trying to tell you something you’ve done or need to work on without reacting defensively or hypercritically.
I’d react this way because I wasn’t honest with myself about many things I was feeling and was hiding my emotions. So when people would question me with hard, deep questions, I would want them to leave me alone, or I felt like they were reaching for something that wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was only because I was still hiding. When I finally opened up about those fears, I let go of the shame and guilt I was sitting with and answered truthfully without disrespecting my boundaries.
1AND1: When sharing your work on social media for people to see, do you feel much pressure to put content out there, or do you stay aligned with posting things that only feel close and authentic to you?
Dhayana: It can be a hard balance, but I’ve learned how to do that in a healthy way. One of the biggest lessons that allowed me to find the balance and get rid of the pressure was about two years ago when I got dropped from two of my classes due to an issue with the FAFSA application (the struggles of a college student, haha). During that time, COVID was still a high priority and forced most of us to learn how to sit with ourselves. And for me, that meant facing the thoughts and unhealed parts I tried to run away from by keeping myself busy with school and other activities. Therefore, sitting at home and doing nothing was something that I wasn’t used to. I’m very organized and goal-oriented, always working toward an accomplishment. So, when I had nothing to do, it felt odd, but as time went on, it was liberating because I truly understood more about who I was, what I loved, and the importance of rest in the process of healing and self-discovery.
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I applied that to my posts, too, and it is something that is reflected in my writing. When I remember that stillness, it reminds me that I don’t always need to push content or post three times a day to keep up with the algorithm. Whenever I post something that doesn’t feel authentic, I immediately take it down. So now I really pay attention to what I’m posting and am intentional about what I want to say.
1AND1: What is something you’re looking forward to in terms of collaboration with people? Is there a writer or two that you’d really like to team up with in the future?
Dhayana: When it comes to collaboration, I’d love to facilitate in-person workshops and events. Getting out there more, seeing more faces, and connecting with others would be great. I have two writers I’d like to collaborate with. One is Brianna Pastor. She’s also a poet, and I just love her work. I’d also like to collaborate with Well-Read Black Girl, whether that’s on a panel or workshop; working with them in any capacity would be amazing. I’m speaking it into existence!