Things my mother taught me

A year ago, I moved back to where I grew up. This time, I was 14 years older, had a good paying job and, for lack of a better word, was an adult. My fiance (now husband) and I bought a house near the park where you could find us every Sunday, the grammar school I attended and my parent’s house. We are now also not too far away from the Midway Orange Line that I take to work every day.

Because I live so close to my parents, they’ve decided to spoil me rotten and pick me up every morning to head to the train to go to work. Don’t worry, it wasn’t just for me, but also for my mom who still works downtown at a law firm. She taught me how to ride the train to meet her for lunch at 10 years old, during the summer when I was out of school. She taught me the importance of directions and explained how to find my way around when I got lost. Luckily, in Chicago, we’re on a grid and well, it’s not too hard to understand and learn.

Since I’ve been riding the train with her for about a year now, and like I said, am substantially older than I was when we rode the train together when I was in high school, I’ve come to realize just how much of a gift it is and have learned to cherish the time we have together in the mornings, telling stories, laughing or complaining about how tired we are.

My mom and I are a lot alike. If you know me and you’ve met my mother, you’d probably say, “Duh.” But I’m also a lot like my dad. I’d like to think that I’ve won the best qualities of both of them. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about not necessarily how alike we are, but WHY we are alike. I pride myself as being a good listener– I can listen to understand, even though I act like I’m not listening at all– and it’s something that I learned because of my mother.

So I decided to compile a list. Not necessarily about lessons that my mom taught me because I don’t even think she thought she was teaching me when I learned these things, but about what I learned because of her.

Don’t force anything. I’m extremely impatient. Mentally, I want things to happen quickly especially if I can control it. I wanted things to happen instantly. I wanted my parents to always say yes to me when I asked to do something. I wanted to be like my friends so I would have them and they wouldn’t think I wasn’t cool. I wanted people to like me because– they didn’t. Be patient, my mom told me. Don’t force it. I didn’t understand that until I became an adult. If things are supposed to happen, they will. With time things will emerge and they will grow into something more to my liking. I also realized that I couldn’t control what was out of my control.

Later on, I learned that the only person I could control was myself and that any consequences that may have occurred was because I allowed it to happen or I made it happen. From then on, I took my dad’s chill approach to things and made a lot more intentional decisions in my life.

Learn to understand but don’t waiver on your morals and values. This was not easy to learn. Like I previously said, I learned the importance of understanding as a kid because my mother would always tell me how good we had it. We would never know what my mom and her 7 siblings had been through. She was right and when I finally put two and two together, I told her, well, we’ll never know because we didn’t live through it and because you don’t tell us about it. So she started telling us why we had it so good. Later I understood why my mother and her siblings were raised the way they were because I listened to my grandmother, and even then, I came to understand my mother better because I had a feel for what she experienced.

This later emerged into something I liked to call my “spidey senses” because I learned to understand individuals based on their experiences. From this, I could understand why people acted the way they did and in a way I was putting myself in their shoes. I realized later that a lot of people didn’t think this way.

I also challenged my mother. I know that. I wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with because I didn’t necessarily ask for permission and I am incredibly independent and stubborn. When I started to get exposed to things outside of my realm in high school, we would get into the roughest of arguments all over one topic: Religion. I was learning about atheist philosophers and questioning life’s meaning. Who was right? Who was wrong? Why not ask questions?

My mother fought me back and said, “I have faith because I was taught to believe, not question.” She wanted me to do the same, but instead I chose to question everything. I didn’t understand accepting things as they were and sometimes I still don’t as someone who’s open to different theories and philosophies. My mother isn’t like me in that regard, but those are her morals and values and I have to respect that. I get upset sometimes that she may not understand (and may not want to), which is how she taught me the importance of doing just that.

Hard work and merit live above and beyond favors. Oh the irony in being a Chicagoan! Mom always taught me to do things myself. If I wanted a job, I had to search for one. If I wanted an internship, I could ask around and look for resources. She hardly ever helped or did any of that for me. She never asked her bosses for favor or did she have me work in her office. She let me do my own thing because I was going to meet people and build my own network. Now, maybe she just thought that I wanted to do something different from work in a law firm, but a little introduction would’ve gone a long way! Nevertheless, I realized that I could go out and do it on my own and I learned the power of my will and motivation. Not to mention, the thrill of completing or executing a project because of the work I put into it.

The moment I realized that it was true was when she told me that a former boss of hers was writing letters to his friends on his son’s behalf. “Can you believe that?” Yes, mom because a lot of people I knew had their parents do that for them. But not my mother. She was going to make me work for what I wanted– and so far, I have and the reward is very, very sweet.

Follow Through. Oh, man. This is one of my favorites. It came in handy when I played basketball, too. When I was in grammar school, I was in numerous activities. In my younger years, that included choir and band. After about 3 months in choir, my friends wanted to quit and did because their parents let them. I couldn’t. My mother told me, “You wanted to do this, you committed to it and you will finish the year.” What a drag!

When my friends all got tired of band and they quit, I told my mom I wanted to quit, too. “Why?” I had no good reason! And that’s when I heard, “If your friends jump off a bridge, are you going to, too?” Fine. So I stayed.

Needless to say, I got used to finishing what I started and I learned to keep my word. I really learned how to see things through because I knew that it would bring me a feeling of accomplishment in the end. Although I did quit the choir, I played flute all through high school and am really glad that I did.

Be humble. Keep striving. My mom always showed us that you shouldn’t brag about things. She taught us that we shouldn’t let good things inflate our ego. This has probably stayed with me and built a foundation in me, creating the person that I am today. I’ve realized that even if I talk about myself, it could be used to inspire or work with others — not making it about me. I’ve always strived for more.

Four years ago now, when EXPO Collective put on its first art fest, I couldn’t appreciate how wonderful it really was. I can now. But back then, I just thought– there’s more to be done. This isn’t the last of it. I could never really gloat or brag about things because for me, those things were not the end– they weren’t worth the brag. Instead, my mission was to continue the art fest year after year and try to benefit as many people as I could along the way because everything I was doing was a means to an end.

Gender what? Gender roles existed only in tradition in my house. As a Latina, (and if you’re Latinx, you’d understand) I was taught that girls were nice and pretty growing up. We didn’t use bad words, we were supposed to serve our fathers and we were supposed to stay home. Yeah, not me. I rebelled hardcore.

“Would you treat me different if I was a boy?” I asked my parents once. Yes, they said. It wasn’t fair and I told them so. They were going to treat me like a nice little girl because I didn’t have a penis, yet I could play basketball, softball and be a tomboy climbing trees and getting dirty. I understand now that they wanted to protect me and that’s the way they knew how, but I saw it as a reason to empower myself. I knew I was as strong (mentally) as any boy, and that I could do what I wanted.

My mother did tell me that I could do what I wanted and she definitely has a privileged mind-set, not letting anything stop her from doing what she needs to do, but after thinking about it you could understand the conflict that she felt.

Growing up in a traditional Mexican household versus growing up in the states where we were told we could live the American dream was one big conflict. My mom and aunts stood up for me when my grandmother insisted that I serve my father and boyfriends. They told her that I should be able to go out because that’s what life was about. They told her not to worry about me being a callejera or that I was out with friends, though they probably worried themselves. I remember when my grandmother asked how I was supposed to get married if I didn’t just settle down and stop traveling so much or wanting to do such big things. My mom told her that I’d find someone who wouldn’t mind and would go with me (and I found him). They all didn’t want me growing up that way, they said.

As I got older, I noticed that my dad was home with us usually after school and he would cook for us. My mom even complained once that his rice was better than hers. There was no role to be played in the house based on gender with my parents. They were a team and still are. I learned then that my dad would probably always be physically stronger than my mother, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without her motivation of our education, passion for learning and stubbornness.

Of course, I owe that to my father as well, for not being a machista and thinking progressively about women’s roles (especially since he was surrounded by us all the time), among other things like having faith in his daughters. As much as I think my father would have liked a boy, I tried my best to play the role. ;p

But what makes me believe of my father as a feminist and progressive is that he’s even said it: we wouldn’t be where we are without my mom.

And that’s pretty dope.

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What is Community?

What is community? I ask myself this a lot because I want to be able to make it and build it and strengthen it. In the past week, I’ve seen so many answers to this question and the most amazing part is that although I’m observing it, I’m also part of it.
 
Community is mourning the loss of a great souls, mentors and friends. Telling stories, keeping them alive and celebrating the life they’ve lived. Always a time cut too short, they’ll forever live in us and in our memories.
 
Community is seeing people who’ve worked their ass off get somewhere and celebrating it with them. It’s knowing that people hold special talents and ingenious creativity and helping them get to where they want or need to be.
 
Community is seeing all the hardship happening and deciding that you want to do something about it. It’s organizing events, meet-ups, or a time to be together to lean on each other for love and support.
Community is challenging the status quo and encouraging other people to do the same. It’s standing up to authority in the name of people other than yourself. It’s asking the right questions and helping people to understand the fact that not everyone may be looking out for their best interests.
 
Community is asking if family members are OK because people know you have loved ones in countries hit hard by natural disasters.  Backgrounds don’t matter or what country you were born in, people are suffering and someone you love may be affected. 
Community is checking in on one another and making sure that you’re getting through everything with sanity in tact. Whether it’s to ask how they’re doing, sending virtual hugs, prayers and good vibes, positive thoughts and feelings go a long way.
Community is not defined by location or ethnicity. Community is not confined by blood. Community doesn’t just stay in the ‘hood and die in the burbs. Community is not just organizing for the good fight or just in the streets during a protest.
Community is love, compassion and a shared strength. When I look at my community I am proud and feel empowered. I see people who have my back. I see people that I’ve supported since day one get to where they want to be. I share stories with amazing folks who are shaking up the world– reporting on it, painting it, telling its stories, singing its songs, uniting its people, helping the less fortunate and documenting our journey on it.
Here’s to my community.

Women’s March on Washington D.C. (Chicago Version)

Being part of this epic movement of women and people across the world marching to battle racism, hatred, sexism, misogyny and xenophobia, I felt energized. Like in the past, I’ve felt united with my people, however this massive event makes the other protests look small. I saw people of all ages walking, chanting, singing some Aretha Franklin songs and capturing the moment. Of course, though, the signs were the best. We saw Carrie Fisher make an appearance, men reminding everyone that they can be feminists, too and of course the epic Shepard Fairey posters that came in every size.

Thanks for taking a look. Leave a comment. Share your photos, too!

I’m not an immigrant and I’m still scared. This is why.

The journalist side of me tries with all its might to stay objective. The Latina in me caps the emotions that I feel toward people who hate.

I’m used to writing about elections from an objective standpoint. However, this year has been hard and the lack of communication and understanding by so many is making the results of this election and presidency much harder to handle.

I’ve been paying attention. I’ve been listening and watching. I wasn’t a fan of either candidate and although I agree with so many that said, “I want a nominee that I can stand behind and that will represent who I am, not someone that’s just an alternative to hate,” it was really hard not to want to just stop Trump.

Since the beginning the things that he was saying seemed like the biggest joke. Extreme, inconsiderate, hateful and usually targeted to particular segments of the population– Mexicans, Muslims, people with disabilities, women. In a country that supposedly stands its ground on Christian virtues, the same population that says “there’s a war on Christmas” and always aims to bring Christianity into politics– how do you support hate?

I was always taught to look out for my fellow human being. I was taught to help, be a woman for others. Even though I did not grow up undocumented, poor or under privileged, I’ve seen the impacts on my community because I chose to be a part of it. I also am because of my skin color, because of my name and because I’m bilingual. Those are things I cannot deny.

Privilege

This election really brought out the question of privilege. Male, white, wealthy privilege. I’ve had my run-ins with it on varying degrees.

This is an example of what white privilege is: At a point in time, I was in a position where I had to communicate and work with older white men with more money than I can conceptualize. I was at a bar, sitting with one of them when we struck up a conversation about college. “So, where did you go to school?” he asked me. “University of Illinois in Champaign,” I responded. He says to me, “Oh! My son is there. He’s fourth generation Illini.”

Let that sink in for a second. Fourth generation. Fourth. Not first, not second, but fourth. This man’s grandfather had obtained a college degree. That means a good job, money, savings, understanding of corporate structures (because he probably started one), business savvy, and something to pass along to his children. By the fourth generation, college is a given– not a question. By the fourth generation, money issues (if dealt with well) aren’t a problem. Language, no issue. Then after graduation, you have a multitude of resources, parents that know just what you need to do to be a white-collar worker with nothing to complain about besides the lack of a raise.

I said the only thing I could say, “Wow. That’s great.” What else could I say? I was a first generation college student. Although my uncles had degrees, my mom had an associate’s, my father graduated high school and my grandmother didn’t even get an eighth grade education. How am I supposed to compete with a fourth generation college kid? Our worries were not the same. Our concerns were not the same. Regardless of the situation, I was always going to have to prove myself.

College wasn’t exactly the most welcoming place either. It didn’t matter who I was, but what I looked like mattered to many. We were feared after a frat party decided to celebrate a Tacos and Tequila event by dressing up as Mexicans– border jumpers, pregnant, wearing the flag. We were called spics in the street. I was talked to plenty of times only in Spanish and it was usually assumed that I was born in Mexico.

Once after being around my friends at La Casa, I returned to my dorm upset only to be asked, “Are you upset about some Mexican thing again?”

After college, outside of my comfort zone, people tried to pigeonhole me. They tried to figure out why I spoke English so well. “You’re so articulate!” I’d hear as if it were a surprise. Was I supposed to say thank you?

Since I talked to my friend Teresa about it, I will always remember something that she gathered from an instructor of hers: “They don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t know.” It all made perfect sense after that.

The Last 18 Months

I never liked Trump. His smugness was so stereotypically masculine. He had all the money in the world, he turned his nose up at people who didn’t like him and he wasn’t prepared at all. I guess you can say he was a real white rich man in America that could do what he wanted because– privilege. Money gets you everywhere. Didn’t you know?

Then started the Mexican talk. Then the people with disabilities talk. Then the condoning violence and the beating of innocent people because… because… the man was Latino? Then came the accusations of bias because of heritage. Then the whole pussy-grabbing thing.

This man was in no way representing me. At all.

Voters and supporters of him say, “American Sovereignty!” Sure, I believe that since you know, his platforms and plans are so well thought out and planned, right? I don’t have a clue what this man wants to do besides put up a wall on the Mexican border, try to deport Puerto Ricans and end the Affordable Care Act.

To that I say, whatever. The American government will never please everyone. If he makes America function better than it has, great. White men have always governed this country and they will continue to for a very long time.  

My greatest fear is for all of us who are different. Because of what he has been saying, because of his mockery of people, because of his attitude, he has made it OK to harass the minority. He’s made those intolerant people show their true colors. He’s making it OK to demean, hurt and put down these individuals for what?   

Trump has said in the last 18 months everything that makes racists xenophobic, bigots homophobic and intolerant, and men pigs. He’s brought to light anything and everything that could possibly upset the white privileged and less educated people. Simple words, simple phrases that stuck. Those same phrases that made me say, “What the hell?!” made other people nodd in agreement.

And as Van Jones said on CNN, “It was a white lash.”

The Fear

I remember learning about the Holocaust. Learning about slavery. Learning about how Mexicans were treated as second class citizens. I remember learning about Japanese internment camps, the Native American trail of tears and the fact that every president during those time frames were some of the most vocally racist people this country has seen. I just saw 13th on Netflix that connected all the dots for me.

I don’t want to live through that. In a country where we’re taught that freedom prevails and equality is justice, I’ve seen very little of it that is blanketed over all people.

It doesn’t exist. It’s an ideology that people keep saying we have, but I don’t see it.

For the most part, after reading about all that has happened in history, I want to just think that it’ll never happen again. Everyone out there is going to have enough sense to say, “I’m sorry, no. Genocide is not right. People are citizens with rights if they’re born here. Human rights apply to all people.”

We’ve seen Hitler’s rise to power. We know what Stalin, Mussolini and Franco did. For those of us who have any idea of what happened during the World Wars, the rhetoric and jargon used in this election mimicked that of horrible times in history.  

In many, if not all, of those instances, there was a cleansing of the countries. Getting rid of the problematic people, uniting under one God, one flag, one country.

For those of us who have been verbally pinpointed by our president-elect, he may as well have put a target on our back. That’s the first step, isn’t it? Making the target feel less than and letting everyone else know they’re susceptible to indiscriminate behavior is the way to start breaking people down. Kids at Royal Oak Middle School in Michigan are already doing it. They heard what the man said and they’re acting upon it because they can. Then there’s this— a recap of what was done and said after the election. We’ve already seen it throughout the campaign trail and now that their leader is the president of the “free world” what more validation do you need to hate?

What Next?

I’d love to say that I could give him a chance to lead, but I’d be a liar. I’m scared. I don’t want to be a number, I don’t want to be harassed more than usual. I don’t want to be put down because of my last name or because I’m Latina.

As far as the government goes, it’s been Red before. I just hope that they all have the common sense to put a stop to the hate and stop him from being the next dictator. It will be the end of anything “united” and in fact, will divide the country as it’s doing so right now.

I’m proud of those who are speaking out and calling the election for what it is. Those people are the ones that start the conversations and bring the issues never spoken about to light.

The protests that happened across the country last night were against the fact that this person could be put in a position of power. It was a staging of First Amendment Rights. It was a staging of energy, anger and fear for what’s to come and proof that not all of the United States are backing a man just because 50 percent of the country voted him into the White House.

Those people that came together are activists, organizers and community folks who’ve been working their tails off for a more just society. They work at non-profit organizations, they work with the people of the community, trying to better their situation and way of life. How do you think so many people knew about and acted on the protest? Because of organizers.

There were some good things to come across the election– quadrupling the number of Women of Color in Congress was one. Let’s see how they do against the privileged Red. More states are legalizing marijuana on different levels.

After the Black Lives Matter movement, the senseless killings and all the other messes we’ve found ourselves in recently, we want to move forward. But in all the different ways of looking at it, as a proud Latina, I’m afraid we’ve just taken one giant step backward.

When Gender Roles Don’t Make A Difference

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’ve been in relationships. Whether I write non-fictionally about them here– well, that’s a different story. But this story is more about gender roles than anything else.

In recent times, gender has been an increasingly important topic of conversation– not because it should be, but because this whole bathroom conversation brings up the issue. We’ve also seen the way women are treated as a result of the patriarchal society we live in that serves men in every way, allowing them to obtain certain rights and privileges just because they have a penis. This goes from the rich rulers of the world to the working-class; men are seen as the go-getting, intelligent, ambitious bread-winners and what adds to it is that they think that way, too.

Women are women. Men are men. You have a part to play, so play it. At least, that’s the underlying message. Women serve men, are nothing without men, whose sole purpose is to find a man, right?

I grew up enveloped in the concept of gender roles. I heard it all. “You act like a boy,” “You were raised like a boy,” to “That sport isn’t for girls,” and “You don’t know how to be a girlfriend.” Because it never made any sense to me (I asked my parents if they would treat me differently if I were a boy. When they said yes, I started to defy them.) and rationale was weak, I began to run in the opposite direction of what was expected of me. I wasn’t going to fall into any expectation, if I could help it.

I wanted to be equal to all the boys. I saw the difference in how they were treated versus how I was being treated. I wanted to be treated the same, with the same privileges. I always believed that I could take care of myself but I don’t have a clue where that came from.

As a girl growing up, I was told that as I got older I was going to have big boobs and a big butt. I gain and lose the butt, but my boobs aren’t as huge as I had been left to believe they would be. Suddenly, I felt less than because every other girl grew into C and D cups, while I was stuck on a B.

Subtleties, however both affected my identity and gender. I was too strong. I wasn’t like the other girls. I didn’t have what I was “supposed to.”

When the first boyfriend I had in four years decided to cheat on me repeatedly, I stayed because I thought, “He said he loved me. He must. Is this the best I’m going to get?” I actually thought it was going to be that way. Then when I realized that I was worth too much more than that, I left. But it made an impact. If this guy said he loved me, but did the complete opposite, would they all be like that? Did I have to play that game, too? When I talked to other guys, he made me feel terrible as if I was the one cheating. He put all the blame on me. Because he was the man, he could do what he wanted and all he had to do was apologize and I’d take him back. But I felt less than. I wasn’t good enough to keep him.

As an adult, I’ve had men stop calling me because I voiced my opinion or start a fight with me because I talked to my guy friends without him around. “A taken woman doesn’t do that,” he said. And there I went, feeling less than again.

Then, I was gas-lighted. The guy I was with didn’t at all act like he cared about me, when in fact he was in love with me but wouldn’t admit it to himself or me and he couldn’t show me his true feelings, let alone tell them to me. He did the minimal to show he cared until it seemed he didn’t care at all, and I left. And there I went, feeling less than again.

But men don’t talk about their feelings unless they’re intoxicated. Men do whatever they want because if a woman was desperate enough she’d wait. Not me. I never had a problem leaving.

Lastly, I was made to believe that if I couldn’t conform, I wouldn’t get married. Plain and simple, I was too bro-ish, too man-ish, too aggressive and “twice the man I can ever be.” Why couldn’t I just be a really strong woman? Stronger than a man?

I can also get into the way I’ve been talked to professionally. “With a smile like yours…” “You should get on that getting married tip,” “She was really pretty, just like you,” “Oh, are you his assistant?” Would any of that be said to a man? What does anything have to do with the way I work or the way I do business?

I was taught that if I have to meet with men, to take a man with me. I couldn’t get into a room and close anything all by myself. When I say that to certain people, they ask me, “Why do you think that?” It’s easy to say, “because I’ve lived it.” I’ve gotten to the point, though, where it doesn’t bother me.

I always believed that the people you love are not defined by their body, but their souls. The connection isn’t just touching, but looking at each other’s eyes, laughing and being happy. It is the happiness in your heart when your best friend calls or the feeling of loving energy radiating from your father’s chest as he hugs you. Without that soul, the body is lifeless, it is nothing. I’ve truly loved people in non-romantic ways and have felt that I’ve connected to their soul.

Hence my dislike for gender roles and the idea that you are your sex.

Then I met my current boyfriend. There never was a sense of roles we were defined by. He told me he never wanted me to change, I told him the same. In six months, we’ve cried to each other, fought with each other and talked through everything together. Never has there been a doubt in our minds to sleep on it or leave it unresolved for too long. We talk everything out, are honest and feel even more confident in this relationship we’ve shared together.

How we “act,” doesn’t matter. For weeks, when I went from job to job and worked at home, too, he would cook for me, clean the house and do the laundry. And he worked the night shift. He didn’t sleep very much. When he moved in, he wasn’t working at all, but I told him I’d be OK supporting him while he found something. He in turn, took on the responsibilities at home because someone had to. I was extremely tired from working so much and only really cleaned on the weekend, much anything else.

He already knew he wanted to take care of me and I him, in every way. How we acted, the roles we played didn’t exist. There were no roles because we were being ourselves in the truest sense– authentic about who we were, how we acted and why.

Over the years, I’ve learned to get rid of those people who thought I had a role to play and instead found those who didn’t care about what I looked like or that I was a woman, but looked deeper to find my heart, my brain and my soul. I’ve found male counterparts that I can converse with, hang out with and work with who have made me even better and stronger and more self-confident and self-reliant. I’ve tried to pass that along to other women as well, calling them “Chingonas” and “hustlers,” because what you DO and GET DONE is not at all defined by your gender. And women should always support women.

When you find that person or persons who let you be yourself, don’t look down on you for being a man or a woman and who don’t expect anything because you are, keep them. Keep them in your lives for the longest time. As long as you can. Forever.

 

The Game Changer

There’s always that one. That one that comes into your life and turns it upside down and inside out. Whether it was for the good or for the bad, always one. Maybe one of each.

As women, we blame “That One” for our men’s commitment issues, among other things going on. She’s the one that treated him horribly or the one that broke his heart. But what happens in the reverse situation?

Most times, men just assume women are crazy or are too needy and gas light them into being too intense and wanting too much. Unlike women, who choose not to blame the men but their former women, the thought of a jerk that may have hurt her never comes to mind. Instead it’s something like, “You know how women are…”

But let me tell you, I know that jerk on a personal level. He came into my life in the strangest fashion, which I should have red flagged from the beginning but I was such a delirious college student that didn’t really care about herself (I know that now), that I took it at face value and ended up a hot mess in the ICU due to health issues at the end of it all. I mean, it couldn’t have been more telling.

I try and figure out what I was focused on and really, I wanted to be able to make the relationship work. After years of not dating anyone, I fell for the words he couldn’t back up. I think I felt like I was missing out on something. But this was definitely something I could have lived without.

We fought horribly. He would leave me hanging and not contact me for days at a time and he would tell me that he had something important to do. I remember the nights he would leave and say, “I’ll come back in a couple of hours and we’ll have dinner” although I knew he wasn’t going to come back. To this day, I expect people to keep their word to me or else I lose faith in the only thing they have to hold on to.

He ended up being a cheater for more than half of our year-long-and-some-change time together. He probably was seeing more girls than the one I ended up meeting.

In the end, I couldn’t help but blame myself. I thought it was my fault for not being good enough. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. However, I stayed because I kept telling myself that the good was great but the down times hurt me so bad, I abused alcohol just to get through it.

I carried a lot with me, including turning to alcohol when I felt terrible about things. It sunk into the depths of who I was and turned me into a horrendous person. The relationship I had after suffered from my low self-esteem and confidence. I couldn’t get out of myself long enough to see the good I had.

It took a few years but I finally dug myself out of the hole I was in. With how I felt to the alcohol abuse… I swear I was on the road to being an alcoholic for real. Every time I felt bad, anxious, out of control, I needed a drink. It was in 2010 that I bucked up and finally understood who I was as a person. I quit drinking for a year to understand what it meant to me and how it had to change. I finally understood the power I had on the inside in order to love and give and I revived the person that I was and am supposed to be.

Needless to say, I still have remnants of that terrible year in college. There are things that remind me of that year and what I felt, making me nervous and want to run away. Too bad, now. I make myself face what is going on and I stand strong, battling myself on the inside but making it work, ultimately, on the outside. People I know now and met after college would not believe for a second the person I was then.

Just ask my homies. The friends that saw me then and helped me through that situation are still friends now. They are proud of me and I love them for lending that helping hand, propelling me forward.

This was the “bad” game-changer. The one that killed you a bit. But then, there’s that “good one” too, called by various names: The one that you let escape, The one that got away, The best relationship you never had, The one that broke your heart. The “good” game-changer that showed you your worth but, it just didn’t work out.

That story is for another time.

Testimony: Being The Mind Reader

I always wonder what people are thinking. In that sense, I try to put myself in their position and in their shoes to understand their point of view, their perceptions. See, I was taught in high school by a very good friend of mine that we should do one thing and that was to love everyone around us. Love was the way that we were going to make the world a better place and loving individuals was the answer to a lot of complications in the world. Smile, hug, compliment, talk. There are different ways to love.

My friend who taught me so much in high school, Mr. Chris LasPiñas.
My friend who taught me so much in high school, Mr. Chris LasPiñas.

In turn, I added another thing to that: Listening. That’s one of the ways I show I care. I listen. It might also be because of the journalistic background I have that comes piled with curiosity and the need to know information; though for the most part, I don’t pressure people into telling me anything. I leave it open for them to express however they choose.

Along with that comes the understanding and the insight, which leads to relationship building and trust. I like to understand people, spend time with them and learn from them. This helped immensely with writing feature articles. Let me tell you.

So on a daily basis, based on what people say, I like to try to figure out where they’re coming from. Makes for great questions and conversation. Then I try to relate it to something bigger; a bigger societal issue, a bigger personal issue. Not always, but when it comes to public display of opinion, I do.

I usually wonder what people think of me. Not that I care, although it does depend on who I’m questioning. If you missed it, I wrote my first Testimony: The Daughter of Immigrants, which got great feedback. In that first testimony, I talk about the racial experiences that I have been through along with “outsiders'” perceptions of who I am and who my family is. I reread it and some of those passages and stories along with this Marc Anthony fiasco and the Sebastian De La Cruz drama with singing God Bless America and The National Anthem, respectively, at large sporting events, got me thinking.

So unAmerican we hung a American Flag bow from our door!
So un-American we hung an American Flag bow from our door!

I mean, if there is anything to make us feel that we are racially judged for looking a certain way, this is it. People feel that they can say what they want on social media without being badgered, yet I guess they haven’t realized (just like they haven’t realized that Puerto Ricans are citizens, we’re not all undocumented and Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.) that about 70 percent of us Latinos (who aren’t REAL Americans) are online. “BAH! They’re everywhere!” 

So after reading a few of these tweets, I thought to myself, why would they think like that? Let me put myself in their shoes. After some thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) consideration, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t put myself in their shoes. I guess I understand where they’re coming from, which is a place of ignorance. What I’m saying is that I suppose I know too much about our American and U.S. history to even make those horrendous accusations. I’m here trying to educate myself and learn about everyone while they’re sitting in underground lairs, apparently. I mean, they called Marc Anthony Mexican. Do they not use Google? 

This reminds me of a quote from Walk Two Moons: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

This, makes me consider two things that I’ve heard many people talk about. One is that because the way we look does affect the way people treat us, whether we want it to or not, we have to up everyone on it. As people of color we have to push the limits and make ourselves better than the norm, which goes back to me feeling like I need to prove myself, mentioned in the first testimony. However, this is a bit more than proving. It’s taking what you know and making it work for you to the utmost potential. Being ambitious and working for the betterment of self.

The second thing is straying from stereotypes. The reason why there are stereotypes is because we have created them ourselves. All Mexicans eat tortillas, teenage Latinas are almost expected to get pregnant, teenage Latinos are all in gangs and we’re all undocumented. This is shenanigans. We have to be able to go against the stereotypes and live what we say: We’re not all the same. Okay, so prove it. Show me how much you’re not the same.

Reminds me of the key chain and t-shirts from mall kiosks: “I want to be different, just like everybody else.”

If we don’t try to understand from the inside, nothing will change. If we don’t try to understand each other and educate ourselves first, we have no hope. The only reason why people cut their Twitter accounts after those fiascos was because someone was their to educate them on the reasons why they were wrong.

It’s a challenge, for sure, to try to share knowledge without coming off as a jerk or a know-it-all, but hell, if YOU don’t do it, who will?

So, how does this apply to mind reading, you ask? Well, usually, it’s because I feel that once I educate or share with individuals about myself, I’m a little more respected and people don’t have to guess anything about me or my life. We don’t always have to be mind readers if we’re open to learning about individuals and they, in return, are open to sharing.

That’s why I listen and learn. The more I know, the more open-minded I am about everyone– even the ignorant people who think they know a thing or two. This is why I got into the story-telling business. Sometimes it’s not about me, but it’s about the people who choose to let me in.

This may be why, if I’ve ever interviewed you, you’ll know I start off by saying, “Teach me.”