We are born with the ability to reason, maybe for our benefit first, but no less to reason.
We are born with the ability to cry out for what we need when we are hungry, when we are in pain and when we want what is not in our grasp.
Then there are those that care for us or are obligated to care for us and they teach us to say ‘Please and Thank you’ in response to those needs being met.
That lesson is lost on some… NOT that it wasn’t taught, maybe it wasn’t enforced.. maybe some little ones were so cute.. too cute and their ‘please and thank you’s’ were overlooked.
And therein lies the seed of entitlement.
My grandmother told me a story of a young Dominican girl that came from her war-torn country that ‘gave her nothing’.
‘But when I came to this country, everything I have is thanks to it.. everything YOU have, everything you will BE is thanks to it.’
So it goes without saying this ugly child learned the value of ‘Please and Thank you’
I believe in leading by example and although she never said please nor thank you to me, nor any of her children, a fact that will ring true in many a Hispanic family, I will always remember the day as a teenager when she told me that story.. more like a Tweet if it existed then.
I stayed at home on a Tues. Election Day and my grandmother who never exits the house, if only to go to the bodega or church, came to the kitchen bare-handed and I asked her, where were you?
‘Fui a votar’
‘Yes’, she said. ‘I went to vote’… I don’t remember for who, didn’t even care to ask. The fact that she participated was a pleasurable shock.
And Covid is not gone… the restaurant below my apartment building abides by the social distancing rules. People wearing and not wearing masks.
I bump into the proprietor of Solace, Dominican entrepreneur realizing his American dream and throwing in the towel as he tells me about the wears of restaurant entrepreneur’s in the aftermath of Covid..
as I sit at Lyn’s place, a ‘healthy eating’ spot that took over the once Mexican spot right below the apartment my family has lived in for nearly 50 years..
‘I’ve been in this for far too long, to not know what’s coming’.. that’s what I heard.
My daughter just graduated high school, I’m done. This is the providers mindset..
A father looking to cash out because his obligations have been met. I will never know what that’s like.
But I do know that as a woman of Dominican descent it gave me great pleasure to see one of ‘my own’ prosper in my neighborhood.
‘I went to PS 192 and IS 195 and G. Dubs (the natives call George Washington High School ‘G. Dubs’) and I appreciate hearing what you’re saying but I’m tired.’
‘When you look like me, there’s so much weight on your shoulders.’
Translation = I can pass for Black and as such, the cards are stacked against me and the obstacles are not fairly adjusted. Whereas a White proprietor can be more fortunate with the roadblocks, I will not.’
The death of George Floyd ignited a movement which the young continue to brave and even though I may not completely understand restaurant business despite the lessons passed on by the person I call father, I know it isn’t easy. Passion is not the only factor that will see you through in the kitchen, yet I have this unmovable faith in our young.
‘Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times.”
‘I can’t afford to give up. I must let our students know that they can, even if you’re tired, and rightfully so, they must know that it’s worth fighting. They too must believe that they can realize their dream.’
The cards may still be stacked but we gotta ‘vote in’ a new dealer while changing the rules of the game.
I look around my neighborhood and it surely has changed… and so have I.
I never was what you think of when you hear ‘Dominican’.
New students still think I’m Asian when they first see me, and so my appearance may break stereotypes as soon as I open my mouth.
I’m the ‘exotic cheese’ eating, PBS, ‘Frasier’ and ‘Columbo’ rerun watching, once in a while ‘Good Times’ grabbing, ‘fix your face’ teaching, no bullshit tolerating, gossip hating, all Latin loving, specific hip hop listening, mask wearing, traveling sapiosexual.
It is hard living in my skin in this time of Covid.
I’m a Latin American woman, born from a Dominican woman and an Ecuadorian man.
My DNA is spread out through an ATLAS of so many cultures, which compels me to reflect on who I am, really?
I thought I was what my grandmother’s told me I was or who they believed they were and where they came from; as a child I believed them.
As a young girl I walked the streets of New York City in the cage I called my body. Looking to be loved for any accomplishment, ignoring all stereotypes established about me. Fair skin, curly hair, artistic girl in a Dominican family… that’s called a ‘pass’. But I was always fat, that, in a Dominican family revoked your ‘pass’. So my rebellious act? Love EVERYONE and identify with EVERYONE and not give a fuck about their thoughts and acceptance.
As a young adult, my struggle with weight was my only focus. It made me blind to every other struggle but never blind to anyone in pain.
Pain was my connection to those around me.
As an adult I began to form my identity based on what I lived and not based on what other’s told me, suggested, believed me to be. The test was to be convinced while practicing compassion for those that didn’t understand nor accepted me.
As a teacher, I became the student. My students taught me so much especially my Black girls.. I won’t include Brown girls because I grew up in a household of them.. I will thank my aunt Esther for filling my space with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and my aunt Carmen for The Supremes and The Commodores and the Jackson 5.. yes we were Brown but we weren’t Black and my students taught me about that, as much as I thought I knew.
‘You don’t understand, Ms.’
‘But I do’
‘No Ms. You don’t understand.’
It is different. I had to accept it and sit in it and understand.
I reflected on all of our field trips to the many locations where I took all of my children. Every store, every museum, every space.. Why were my Black girls approached differently than the rest? Why?
You have to LIVE it to understand. And so when they spoke of their feelings to me, I stopped with the ‘maybe’s’ and listened and accepted their feelings, knowing I could never understand their PAIN.
And their PAIN was another tie that connected us.
I also accept that with all of the LOVE I may demonstrate to them, some will still question my motives and be merciless if I make one mistake. They are young and forming their characters and deciding who they will become, I hope compassion will be in their arsenal and ultimately see people’s hearts and be so much better in their world than this world has been to them.
I am a better teacher, a better person thanks to them and every one of my children.
Every day, every moment, every experience, every friend, every enemy, every family member, every teacher, every adult as a child, every employer, every job, every country visited, every stranger encountered has shaped who I say I am. And the beauty of that, is the unwavering determination I stand on, so strong no one can convince me otherwise.
Its o.k. if you don’t know what to do, its best to make a decision when you do know than when you are not sure.. Its o.k. to love somebody so so so much but always love yourself even MORE. Give time time – Dale tiempo al tiempo.. Things that are meant to be will happen naturally, not when they are forced.. Remember what you are worth and how wonderful you are; the person that will be yours will never need to be convinced NOR reminded. Always look everything and everyone at face value, almost everything is EXACTLY as you see it, then thereafter ACCEPT it if you want it without expectations of change. Faith and prayers DO work even while all else fails. Don’t allow failures of the heart to change it, allow each fracture or tear or broken piece to heal and grow stronger. And choose wisely when giving your heart again, the next person should care for it as if it were their own. Give yourself time with everything, there is no harm in thinking things through. Enjoy yourself and your time and the things you do, create a little world of your own. Don’t be afraid to let someone new in and trusting them just a little. They just might be what you were looking for and have the courage to hold on and not let them go. If you were wrong, again, its o.k., as my mom always says, ‘Mas alante vive gente‘ – ‘there are more people up ahead‘. The right Love will come along.
WRITTEN August 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM after another failed attempt at Love
That passage along with the entire definition of Love can be found in the Bible.. The answer to all conundrums can be found in the Bible.. It’s just that ALL gets lost in translation.. Or conveniently avoided or ignored But I never ignored that – ‘Love doesn’t keep score’ So how does a single gal decide in today’s world.. Old school gal in the digital age where it seems as if you can ‘order a tailor-made guy’ online.. Not really but ‘soñar no Cuesta nada‘.. At least it offers you a chance to narrow your choices down and avoid what you don’t want. Black, White, Latino, Asian, 30’s-40’s.. Blue Collar, White Collar, college grad, college drop-out, thinker, do-er, works with his hands, Gets paid to think, limited vocabulary, Shakespearean speaker, single, divorced, with or without children, just starting or starting over.. They are ALL out there but.. Boys will be boys and men will continue to say what they must, in order to get what they want.. And some of us gals too.. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those that recognize our faults and maybe because I don’t ‘play dumb’ is because I’m still single.. That need to feel that ‘God-forsaken’ ring on that finger doesn’t rule my every move when it comes to men and never will, so maybe I will remain single.. But now as I have been frequenting a younger than moi, White Collar, Irish American, Single, College Grad that dabbles in the Arts, the literary kind of course (cause God Loves to have a laugh or two at my expense) I have found him to be emotionally unavailable. So I have been what I am NOT.. Patient.. And if you know and love me, you know that that one quality is Not one that I possess, but I have been practicing it out of Love.. Yes, Love.. As we get older Time becomes more and more valuable.. And for me it’s just become even More valuable so the little, unaccounted, indefinite, not promised, precious moments that I have, I invest them well or at least try to, and so he has become a part of my Time… Even if I sometimes didn’t feel the same in return.. And then there was yesterday.. Blue Collar, older than moi, Irish American, Works with his hands and Loves it, Single and dabbles in the visual arts (cause God still wants to crack up) I have found him to be ready.. But then again, I pity a man that isn’t at 40.. He spoke of many things that scared and delighted me. All the things girls secretly think of.. and would never admit.. And I felt ‘rushed’ in so many ways.. But the thrilling kind that races through you when you’re on the down slope of a roller coaster.. But I feared it as well.. Cause I’ve always been ‘that’ in a pair, the ‘hurry hurry, let’s go’ and I’ve been secretly craving someone to slow me down.. And that’s what the young one does.. His ways has instilled patience and even if it is something I don’t want, it is something I need.. God tends to give you what you need.. Even if it isn’t what you want.. Great Father isn’t he? So now what? What do I do? Those who know me.. And judging by what you have read, what would you suggest? Even if you know I will do as I please in the end.. What’s the score?
‘Meet me at Cafe Reggio at 3 pm tomorrow‘
A man that can tell me when and where to be with absolution is a man I can adore, respect and fear
and so I did – meet him
and so I do – adore him
and so I will – fear what started last night
The snow began around 11 and I stared in amazement at its downpour from my window
small white shadows flurried down and as the minutes went by turned into giant flakes
What a day? Out of all days… why today?
But if I don’t go? Will he take it as a sign that I wasn’t that interested… when words couldn’t express how interested I was
And if I do go and he doesn’t?…
and so I did
at least it will be memorable because of the snow in October
arriving early I sat to wait and expected him not to show up
bzzzz-bzzzz – ‘Where are you?’ – ‘I’m waiting for my date’ – ‘oh o.k., I forgot’ – ‘Well, I’ll give him half an hour to show up, if not I’m out.’
‘Oh stop! He’ll show’ – ‘oh you know guys, they can be assholes! Oh wait! Here he comes! Gotta go!’
He stood tall and all I saw was his blues eyes
He was covered in small white flakes that quickly disappeared with the warmth of the room
He looked around and I wondered if he remembered what I looked like but then his eyes met mine and the search was over
My heart wants to go deeper
Every woman’s heart wants to believe that the first encounter will be magical and that as soon as your eyes meet his, he will realize that you are what hes been searching for, this unique phenomenon like snow in October… (sarcastically) unbelievable!
The thing was, the ‘thing’ is, that this wasn’t our first encounter
We had met a while ago with our words..
The honest unassuming exchange of words happened between us and that was when I first met him..
That was when my heart began to beat faster
when I read his words..
therefore to have him before me was just the added stimuli that made my heart race
because he turned out to be all his words were
I just maintained this prayer within me that afternoon and evening that he continue to be just that
and that his colors not turn after the sun went down or rose again
that he not be this amazing crazy event that happens once every 50 years, like snow in October
I’m cautious, I’m back on American soil and I’ve chucked that hard learned Italian lesson about ‘Passione‘
and I’m so scared and I’m not scared of the aftermath either
Habit is kind of a miraculous thing like snow in October
if I treat this
like snow in October
this can be this eyeopening
that can leave me breathless
doubtful yet wanting to leave the safety of my four walls
looking for needful things to keep warm
wanting to know if anyone else is feeling this enjoyment
because it has been so long
and even if those flakes will never fall again in October
I will savor every second till they hit the ground
and evaporate – beginning the cycle
It’s as if I am writing about a sentence served..
Sometimes living can feel like that… a sentence and you wonder what did you do to deserve such a sentence and sometimes it’s exhilarating and you don’t want it to stop..
That is how I have been feeling lately and it takes me back to the first twenty years of my life.
I had my weekly therapy phone session and I recounted my weekends events.. it was a long list of ‘things accomplished’
Me: ‘I feel great. I really do. I had so much to do and I got it done. I had my Teacher Leaders project, DONE. I had my students grades to complete, DONE. I had my blogs updated, DONE.. well my non profit one is still lacking, but I will get to it. My grandmother is doing better..’
Therapist: ‘That’s good.’
I find myself talking more about what’s going on at home for obvious reasons.. I am feeling like a prisoner yet I don’t want to leave.. A mix between complacency and fear and lethargy..
‘I want to let you know that in the last slide of my Teacher’s Leaders presentation, I thanked my family, my friends, my partner John and you’
She laughed softly.
‘Yes, I want to tell you that I appreciate our sessions. I have learned or have unlearned the many things I was obligated to believe in the first 20 years of my life. To be strong and to only count on myself because I can’t count on anyone else.’
The truth is that believing that, allowed me to be the exception to the rule and not the ‘normal’ outcome. Believing that I had to be strong and do it all on my own allowed me to escape all statistics related to young Black and Brown girls. I didn’t end up pregnant as a teen, but I was molested; I didn’t end up an addict, but I did eat my way into morbid obesity; I didn’t end up in jail, but I did my share of dirt; I didn’t drop out of high school, because that was never an option; I didn’t commit suicide even if I did attempt it.. ‘I even fail at that!’ I remember saying afterwards.. my self esteem didn’t exist.. yet I was one of the lucky ones.. I survived it all.
‘My teenage years were not the best years of my life.‘ My voice cracked.
‘I did everything on my own and I had no choice but to be strong because in order to get out that’s what I had to be. I wanted better for me. But after being alone for so long, I had to accept that I couldn’t preach one thing in the classroom and not LIVE the message. It felt so false.. like I wasn’t being genuine with them.. I tell my student’s over and over to seek help when they are down, when they feel like breaking down talk to someone they trust. An adult you know has your back and wants the best for you. And SURPRISE! Sometimes that adult isn’t always your mom or your dad.. I know because that was me… and that’s o.k. And so you look for others and make them your family.. I had to test adults.. to see if they cared..
I had two teachers in high school that SHOWED me they loved me. They didn’t have sappy words for me. They were real and honest, and they demonstrated they cared through their actions.. aside from them, I can’t say anyone else was memorable.. my guards were always up.. but I don’t want that for my students. I may have grown up that way but they shouldn’t have to.. Children shouldn’t have to grow up with that weight on their shoulders. They should believe it is o.k. to need someone, to need help.. and look for it, and ask.’
My voice cracked because I was thinking of my students as I recounted my teenage years. I am long past those years and can appreciate today all of the pain experienced but to think that any of my students could be in those same shoes.. hurts.
‘I can only imagine what some of our students may be experiencing at this time. In today’s meeting I told them, ‘I know what it’s like to be a teenager in a home you don’t want to be in. Not having a safe space to go to. Having your own room can be a luxury!’ I didn’t grow up with my own room.. I always had to share space.. sleep with my aunt or grandmother. We were always on top of each other.’ The same apartment I am in now, was shared with tenants, strangers while 5 of us were packed in 1 of its four bedrooms. That could be their reality.’
For the first twenty years I had no external support system, Rosa did it all on her own.
I have entered the belief that although it saved me, it doesn’t save everyone else. So many adults that are lost were children once and so they’re just children that somehow weren’t strong enough. So when I see my students, my children, some may not be as strong as I once was and so I try to be a part of that support system for them.
I am comfortable telling my students that I see a therapist, because I want them to have an example. I know I am a hard-ass for a teacher, with the ‘crazy’ standards, relentless, lives in the classroom because she loves what she does, but hopefully they see ‘she can’t do it alone’ or better yet, ‘she doesn’t HAVE to do it alone’.
‘I am grateful for all of the obstacles and challenges in my life. They have contributed to who I am but I know now that many of them didn’t have to happen. I didn’t have to do it all alone. I am learning to let go and allow people in. And that’s the lesson I have learned through therapy. Expecting children to be strong and do things on their own has been the normal for way too long in our culture and it has to stop.’
This was a diary entry written 10 years ago in July when I returned to Florence for the summer in 2011 It’s about someone that I was with, when I lived in Florence. His name was Mauro. I saw him again that summer. I was in a relationship with someone else in NYC.
July 23, 2011 at 5:39 PM
per definizione ci sto con uno…. mi sa che per starci.. e non voglio sentirmi cosi
mi vuole bene, ed anch’io gli voglio bene ma sapiamo molto bene che non sono innamorata, e credo lo stesso di lui
‘sono stato bene da solo, ma la verità e che sto meglio con te’… ho letto
è vero che le donne si innamorano con l’udite e gl’uomini con la vista.. perche una bella donna farà qualsiasi uomo bavare
ma se dici la cosa sbagliata qualsiasi donna può dimenticare tutto il bello che ce stato..
quindi ‘sei stato bene da solo’ può dire anche che non hai bisogno di me…
e che stai meglio non è e non sarà mai abbastanza per una come me..
quindi ‘icché fo?’ (bella roba)
ho visto quello che nel pasato potevo fare qualsiasi cosa per il suo amore, e c’ho provato nei miei limiti
lo trovo bene ed una grande amicizia è rimasta
ho sentito quello che assieme ho fatto delle belle cose, incluso il amore.. e la verità è che lo voglio ancora
si… si, lo voglio ancora
ma sono in un incroccio nella mia vita che sto scoprendo cose di me stessa..
il vivere sotto le regola d’oro – comportati di la maniera in cui vorresti che gl’altri si comportarebbero con te..
quindi non mentire e non tradire, la sincerità per me va altrove della devolezza de la pelle
perche i momenti goduti sono solo momenti che passerano
ma il dolore che rimane può distrugiere tanto..
Per me, ritornare ai posti dove ci siamo stati è stato bello..
è come se stare li, lo avevo ancora.. eravamo ancora
parlavamo ancora.. lo respiravo ancora
ma lui non lo ha voluto
aveva le sue condizzione
come vorrei poter dire di si.. mi fa pensarlo tanto
ma mi sa che continuerò a ritornare ai posti dove ci siamo stati.. il fresco di Viareggio
quella pasticceria a Montecatini.. il bar a Pescia
mi va bene
Translation by definition I’m with someone …. I guess it’s just to be with someone .. and I don’t want to feel like this he cares for me, and I him, but we know very well that I am not in love, and I believe the same of him ‘I was fine alone, but the truth is that I’m better with you’ … he wrote it is true that women fall in love with what we hear and men with what they see .. because a beautiful woman will make any man drool but if you say the wrong thing, any woman can forget all the beauty that there was .. so your ‘fine alone’ can also mean that you don’t need me … and your ‘better’ is not and will never be enough for someone like me .. so ‘icché fo?’ (trans. ‘what do I do’) In the past, I could do anything for his love, and I tried within my limits I find him well and a great friendship has remained
I felt what we did together was beautiful, including the love we made .. and the truth is that I still want it yes … yes, I still want him but I’m at a crossroads in my life that I’m discovering things about myself .. living under the golden rule – behave the way you would like others to behave with you .. therefore do not lie and do not betray, sincerity for me goes beyond of the weakness of the flesh because the moments enjoyed are only moments that pass but the pain that remains can destroy so much ..
Piazza in Montecatini
For me, returning to the places where we have been has been nice .. it’s like being there, I had him still… we were together still we talked still… I breathed him still but he didn’t want it he had his conditions how I wish I could say yes .. makes me think so much but I know that I will continue to return to the places where we have been .. the coolness of Viareggio that pastry shop in Montecatini .. the bar in Pescia that’s fine with me
I remember the sleepless nights I had over six years ago when I first met you..
words on a screen that connected me to you, while I was with someone else.. and so were you.. your words kept me awake, awake regardless of the body laying next to me.. and all my thoughts were of you..
You made love to me in the most penetrable of ways, with your words, with the intellect of you..
no hand, fingers, lip, moist tongue and wet intimate contact could ever compare or obtain what you have of me..
I imagined you..
Used every verb to design you in my mind..
and it did you no justice..
I remember the night I first saw you over five years ago and how we drank to ease the nervousness and even if the love made that night was not what great romances are made of, I kept it tender in my heart and never forgot you.. because you never let me
You surfaced every chance You wanted.. you called the shots and I yielded every time and still do and even if it will end because it Will..
I want it to end me loving you tender and not enraged
remember a woman’s rage, it is never what you want..
yet I wanted you and still do..
thought of you as I lived in a foreign home, your home for years and learned your tongue because English words thrown together thoughtlessly were no longer enough to express what emerged in me when I thought of you, and still does, damn you..
for having that ability
but I will soon act upon the conviction that that Ability you have is because I gave it to you, and I will take it away..
just as soon as I learn how or just as soon as the effect wears off..
its only been about 2,000 days since our paths crossed
even if they decidedly do not run parallel, I can only pray they continue to progress
away from each other,
i have named her my enemy from the second i announced my birth..
from the moment i made use of my lungs
and screamed my existence to the world..
when i am suppose to acknowledge her existence
i become undone
i have learned to accept her
because i have realized
that i cannot make it without her
because without her i would have ended my days in an asylum
ingesting small round pills that would
force her into my being
and when anything good
enters my life these days
i ask for her company..
to never leave my side
but i still hate her
because i can never be her
because she can never be a part of who i am and because i need her to succeed..