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#RedefineAtoZ: Christopher Sablan Diaz left the Air Force to pursue his passion, and found his voice

The biggest risk Christopher Diaz ever took was leaving the Air Force, but he said it helped bring him on the creative path he was always drawn to.
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NAME: Christopher Diaz

AGE: 30

HOMETOWN: I’m from Santa Rita, Guam, but grew up in several different places (Hawaii, Washington, Japan, Texas)

FACEBOOK: Christopher Diaz / TWITTER: @lightbulbchris / INSTAGRAM: @lightbulbchris

How do you introduce yourself?

I introduce myself as Christopher Diaz and I usually go by Chris. My full name is Christopher James Sablan Diaz. I am a Chamorro from the island of Guam, a poet, a photographer, and a military veteran. I am a twin and the youngest of five kids in my family.

What inspires you?

My parents. Their level of work ethic and integrity are two things I’m constantly striving to achieve. I’m inspired by anyone who works hard to do the right thing the right way, but I’m especially inspired by my parents because their drive has always been rooted in providing a better life for me and my siblings.

Image: Christopher Sablan Diaz works with participants of a youth workshop.
Christopher Sablan Diaz works with participants of a youth workshop.Courtesy of Christopher Sablan Diaz

What challenges you?

Myself. In between anxiety, depression, and constant self-doubt, sometimes I am my own worst enemy. It took me years to seek help from a mental health professional, but I’m grateful that I did. My family, friends, partner, and Benny (my dog) help me remember who I am — and usually this is all I need to get out of my own way.

Tell us about the biggest risk you ever took.

The biggest risk I ever took was leaving the Air Force. My father served for 31 years and both of my older brothers served as well. All three of them were enlisted and taught me what it meant to be a good officer, a good leader. So I was terrified to hang up the uniform for a couple of reasons. The first was the fear of disappointing my father. When I finally decided to do it, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to tell him in my entire life. He supports me in everything I do, but I think he still wishes I would have gone career. The second fear was the fear of the unknown. I had been a military kid my whole life — grew up on military bases, did JROTC in high school, ROTC in college... I didn’t know anything else.

But I’ve always been in love with writing. And it never stopped calling me no matter what I did or where I went. So in 2015, I left the Air Force to pursue my passion for poetry and photography and relocated to Houston with my partner, Emily. I’m happy to say that I’m a freelance photographer, a writer in residence with Writers in the Schools, and a part of an incredibly beautiful poetry community: Write About Now.

What are you reading/watching/listening to these days?

I [participated] in a “30 for 30” challenge during April for National Poetry Month. The challenge is to write 30 poems in 30 days, so I’m reading a lot of my friends’ poems since we share our work with each other online. Outside of that, I’m reading "Home. Girl. Hood." by Ebony Stewart and “Virgin” by Analicia Sotelo (get. these. books.). I’ve been watching BBC’s "Planet Earth II" and the fourth season of "Black Mirror," both on Netflix. I cannot stop listening to SZA’s "Ctrl" — I will usually listen to it beginning to end whenever I put it on, and sing along very badly almost every time.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what career would you want to pursue?

I’d love to be a dancer or do anything in music — whether that’s producing or playing an instrument or singing or emceeing — those all sound pretty neat to me.

What’s your motto?

“trust your work.” - from “salt.” by Nayyirah Waheed

I celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month because… celebrate my heritage is to celebrate myself. And I believe this honors my ancestors, and everything they went through to keep us (and our heritage) alive.

NBC Asian America Presents: A to Z aims to celebrate the emerging voices and breakout stars of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. These individuals aren’t just reading the dictionary of what it means to be Asian American and Pacific Islander in America; they’re writing new definitions every day.

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