I believe in resiliency. I was born in Mexico City, I grew up in a white house with maroon shutters, a garden with ivy running up the walls, bugambilia flowers to make tea from, a jacaranda tree, and a chandelier hanging from the staircase. I lived with both of my parents, my little brother, and a small puffy dog that we got when I was eight. My bedroom had a balcony; it was the place where I always thought I would be serenated by a prince. My best friend, Karen, lived down the street. Her house was 4,013 steps from my house and when I visited her, I usually entered through her window. Across the street from Karen’s there was a big great park with the most beautiful tree any child could ask for. I spent a lot my time in the tree branches, climbing high, jumping off, and sometimes just laying on it. I climbed on that tree day after day in spite of my usual skirt or dress attire with ribbons hanging from my pigtails. I did not know then that only in a few years I would call home another country.
Everything happened so fast, my parents divorced, my mother could not make ends meet, and my family from Philadelphia recommended that she moved to the “States.” On July 3rd (our immigration anniversary) we left full of hopes for better days. My brother and I were immediately enrolled in school and they made me skip a grade. We lived with family first and then we got our own one-bedroom apartment for three. Although we did not know it at first, we lived in a drug corner; “Lucky” was the cocaine dealer that lived upstairs. Eventually we moved to a two-bedroom near a park that had free jazz concerts during the summer. Although I liked my life in Mexico, I liked my new world too. I was thrilled to use a locker and ride a yellow school bus like “in the movies.” “Like in the movies” I also wanted to be a cheerleader, only months after my arrival, I made the Varsity Cheerleading Squad.
A year after my arrival, I had taken my SATs and gotten accepted into all the three colleges I applied to. I accepted a University before I ever visited it and before I knew anything about it, just that they offered a major in psychology that was my only real requisite. Yes, it sounds crazy but I did not know its rank among other universities, the number of students that attended, the size of the freshman classes, the fact that they were division 1 in wrestling, the student minority breakdown, or the faculty to student ratio. At the time I was the only person in charge of making any executive decisions about my learning. My mother did not know how to help me because she did not know what SATs meant, what federal financial aid was, or how I could be helped.
My single parent was struggling to make ends meet. She had a range of low-skilled jobs that in accumulation caused her hands to stiff and her body to ache. Her first job in the U.S. was picking tomatoes, she got paid one dollar per tomato basket. She has also worked in factories where she performed the same repetitive task (hard or easy) for 8-10 hours in a row. She worked in this one pharmaceutical packaging factory for 11 years where she had to wear white only from head to toe, no make up or perfume, and a hair net. I resented that particular workplace for stealing my mother’s love affair with color, she looked like a cotton ball in a bag of 100ct cotton balls. My mother also worked cleaning offices, hotels, and answering phones after hours. Like a machine, my mother usually held three jobs at once, but still made breakfast, dinner, and even packed us lunch.
It has been one amazing journey. I cannot name all the sacrifices and accomplishments that my family has made since we first laid eyes on this country. Some include: buying a house with green shutters, my brother successfully completing his freshman year in college, my mother only working one job, and myself living in New York City finishing my last year of a doctorate degree in psychology.
My mother supported all of my high reaches and was always an example of resiliency herself. I anticipate that more challenges shall come, I also anticipate savoring them, learning from them, and pushing through them. I like who I have become and I thank the resiliency within.
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