I grew up the eldest daughter in an upper middle-class Cuban-American family. … I pause a little as I write the words upper middle-class because I wonder if my family would see it that way, but I will not change what I believe. Especially not now.
During this road trip, I am continuing the essence of this summer’s quest. I continue to learn more about myself. Leading the list of lessons I have learned: I had a very privileged childhood.
I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful to my parents for allowing me to have such a safe and secure existence. That part of my life allowed me to grow into someone who is willing to analyze my life and grow from my experiences.
As the daughter of open-minded immigrants, the lessons I learned growing up included:
- We are all equal, no matter what other people say. Like the time at my sixth birthday party when my African-American friend, Paula Lovett, was not allowed into the club to meet me for the pool party. My parents complained to management as soon as they found out what had happened. They also cancelled our membership.
- Our dreams can come true. My sister and I still joke about the mantra my mother instilled in us – “You are not getting married until you have your PhD!” Neither of us got our doctorate degree, but that’s not the lesson we got. What we learned was that we should never allow anything to get in the way of our dreams. That lesson continues to ring true for me.
- Never say never. When others may be deterred by a negative response, I have learned to question everything, to not give up, and to follow my instincts. I deserve to live my truth, no matter what others say. I find, however, that some people question my stick-to-it-tiveness. Especially now. I don’t think these people want to seem mean. I think they are concerned for me and are questioning my decisions because said decisions are not normal or expected.
The thing is, my childhood as the child of open-minded immigrants also neglected to teach me some other things first-hand.
- Charity: I never cried the tears of a child who yearned to grasp the handlebars of her own bike. I learned charity by watching my mother work diligently for years to collect clothes and appliances with the nuns for families in the Dominican Republic. Although I frequently wear thrift-shop clothes now, it is by choice. I never felt the shame of wearing a hand-me-down dress to my high school prom. I know that shame exists, though.
- Hunger: Sometimes I have felt the tight rumble of an empty belly, but most of the time it has been because of a self-inflicted dietary change. I have felt the guilt inflicted on us because there are children whose growth has been stunted by starvation, but I never felt the pangs myself. And I never knew anyone who had lived that life – children whose only meals are provided by the school, adults whose income barely pays for the roof over their head so they have to count on the charity of others to tame the ache.
- Although many would say I grew up a minority Hispanic, in Miami, I was not a minority. Although I sometimes felt the sting of racism, the memories of angry adults are fleeting. That is lucky, I know. I never felt the weight of judgment heavy on my back as I roamed a convenience store, as I know others feel simply because of the color of their skin or length of their hair. The only judgment I felt was self-imposed – I am so lucky that I should be doing something worthwhile. I think I’ve reconciled that judgment now.
See, the main lesson I’ve learned so far on my seemingly perpetual Vision Quest is that the truth in my heart is louder than any other voice around. After years hiding behind the shoulda’s and woulda’s of my human existence, I am finally allowing myself to live a different life. People who love me question my personality change. My answer: I wonder if I was being honest with myself.
This Vision Quest has allowed me the luxury afforded mainly to those who can pay exorbitant amounts of money just to sit on a couch and learn about themselves. I am not like them, and I don’t want to be like them. I want to be me and to live my truth, not caring about what the next day will bring or about the comings and goings of the latest celebrity of the day. I am learning a new way of thinking and living.
I’ve been analyzing the changes in me. It’s hard to put into words except to say that the joy I find now does not live in the four walls that represent my human existence. I am learning to look outside of myself, to recognize need in others and to try to ease that need. It’s not life-altering things for humanity that I’m learning or practicing. I’m just trying to do what I can in the moment for one particular person or creature. It’s the desire I felt dawn in my relationships with my students — an innate need to guide them toward creating a life where they are happy with their choices.
Part of me knows this is insane, but there’s a part of me, one hidden away for many years behind the façade of my smiles, that believes the promises made to me by my Spirit guides and teachers during a vision: “Nothing will happen that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Let me explain why that’s so important. I now realize that some my readers may not understand what seems so clear to me. That refrain is not telling me that nothing is in my hands. Free will exists, as does the ability for bad things to happen. But these words are so ingrained in me because they are my connection with the Spirit world. As long as I continue following my instincts, everything will be fine.
Today, in the early evening coolness of an Arizona September, as I wait outside the campground laundry for my clothes to be done, I want to sing with the coyotes:
I am happy. I am safe. Maybe I’m not living the diamonds-and-pearls existence of princess realities, but this reality suits me just fine. …
… if only I could find more-regular Wi-Fi access!