Immigration and my take on it.

photography of airplane during sunrise
Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on

Imagine being seven years old and being told you are moving away. No one likes to move right? Kids are separated from friends and moved out of their current school, and parents have to worry about much packing and cleaning…and then unpacking and then more cleaning… and well the process is tedious. Now, imagine being that same seven year old kid except you are moving to a whole new country — where they speak a different language, where you need a visa to get in, where the only way to ever return to your country to visit your family and friends would be on a plane. That was me.

Immigration is a whole new world and unless you know what you are talking about, you really should not speak on it. No one knows or understands what it is like to leave literally everything behind in hopes of finding  a better life for yourself and your family. My family and I left Colombia… and what I remember was not terrible. My mom was a stay at home mom, I went to private schools, spent many days with my grandma, and I had many friends. How did we get here? We got on a plane. Easy.  I cannot even imagine being a person who has to flee because they are in need of asylum or refuge. I cannot imagine having to walk for hours and hours with my parents — without food or water. For us, it was simply because my dad had to provide for my mother and his three young children, and in Colombia, he did not see a future for our family.

The hardest part about coming here as a 6 year old was the language. I had to obviously start a new school, but even if I wanted to make friends, things were ten times harder because of the lack of knowing the language. Luckily, I quickly realized that not everyone spoke English — there were people from all over the world, but where I was living, there were mostly Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans. Also, my school had a dual language program and my classes were literally in Spanish for half the day. Looking back, I was blessed. When we left Orlando and moved to Kissimmee, things got more difficult but if it wasn’t for us moving, learning the language would have been delayed.

In Kissimmee, there were still people from all over. I was still able to speak to my friends in Spanish but my class was just in English. My teacher was patient and his focus was to get us to pass the FCAT. I still remember wondering how the hell I was supposed to pass a standardized test where I had to write a 5 paragraph essay when I barely knew any English. Too bad, so sad… I had to figure it out. If it wasn’t for my teacher believing in me, I would have never done it. I started scoring higher than the kids in my class who knew English on practice essays and when FCAT came around, I had a passing score. I still remember the happiness that brought to me. I was only 9 years old, but damn… what an accomplishment that was.

I think that’s why I became a teacher. I came to a country feeling like I would never be accepted and the people who accepted me without hesitation were my teachers. I know there are impatient, rude, racist teachers… but I got lucky. That’s why whenever I get blessed with my ESL angels, I let them know right away that I understand them. I was once in their shoes. At the same time, I tell them they are going to have to work hard, they are going to have to talk English… that’s the only way they’ll ever learn. Standardized tests are already difficult enough for those who are fluent in the language. I always remind my ESL students they have to work twice, if not three times, as hard.

I get students from all over, but mostly from Venezuela. I have learned to love these kids and their stories so much. It is truly unbelievable what people are going through in Venezuela.  If you know someone from there… I advise you to sit down with them and have them explain it to you.

I wish people would stop and realize that yes, illegal immigration is illegal… but sometimes it is necessary. Immigration is “annoying” but this OUR world and we are all entitled to the same rights and freedoms. Why would we deny anyone the right to have a better life? It’s just something that goes way beyond my head and I will never comprehend it. At the end of the day, kids are not at fault. Welcome them with open arms so you can help raise strong, intellectual, caring human beings.

Remember. It takes a community.


Why loving ourselves is so hard.

I believe one of the many things they don’t teach us to do while we are young is to love ourselves.  I do not believe there is anyone to blame — it is something that has happened over many generations. We are raised to be “good” people and are expected to become responsible and caring members of society. Sure, we are told to respect others, be kind, be generous, be forgiving. But we are told to be all these things to other people, never to ourselves. You’d think that by exercising these qualities on others, it’d happen naturally when we try to love ourselves. However,  we grow up and become very caring individuals to everyone but us. This is why some people go their whole lives trying to please others, thus forgetting themselves, their needs, and their dreams. Additionally, we are told we are smart, we are told we are beautiful, we are told many pleasant things — and grow up expecting more of these compliments to hype us up, and feel down when no one commends us.

I can honestly sit here and say that at the age of 28, I don’t know who I am or what I am trying to be — I don’t know what I want to gain from life. I also cannot say I love myself.  Unfortunately, this realization was not made until after I had an emotional roller coaster with many people in my life with whom I had a relationship with. I learned that I was loving and giving to these people, in hopes of it being reciprocated. While I am completely aware that you should not give to receive, I am also aware that no relationship is a one way street. It was a shock for me to learn that if I want something done, I am going to have to do it myself.  This is where loving yourself becomes such an important aspect. One should not wait desperately to be loved, to be cared for, to be respected — or to get taken out, or wait around for gifts,  for kind words.  We should learn how to do things things for ourselves, which will then help us understand that we don’t need people to fulfill our wants and needs. We can find love within us.

Doing things alone is uncomfortable for many, but there is no better way to get intimate with yourself than to be alone. I used to be so terrified of being alone that sleep became my best friend. On days when I wanted to go to the movies for example, and no one was available, I would sleep. On days when I wanted a kind word — but never got it, I’d sleep.  Now I look back and wonder why. Why could I not take ME to the movies? Why could I not tell MYSELF kind words? Why could I not go out alone and treat myself to something nice? Other people cannot define our happiness and we have to learn to be responsible for making ourselves happy – the only person we can have control over is ourself.

One thing I am learning to do now is to love myself. Every single day I question my life. I question if I am content or if I am comfortable. There is a huge difference between the two — and even though being comfortable is a pleasant feeling, we need to bring our lives into a content state… and away from simply being comfortable. Being comfortable is easy and it is also dangerous to our lives.  If you don’t feel a stirring in your heart or spirit, you need to change something to be able to feel gratified. Stop doing the same thing over and over again if you are getting results that are not bettering you emotionally or spiritually.  I believe the first step to loving yourself is to question everything — the rest will follow. For example:

Am I doing enough for myself? Am I living the life I always dreamed of living (realistically)? Do I think positively about myself and my life? Do I reward myself for all the hard work I put in on a daily basis? Am I where I want to be spiritually? Have I forgiven myself for past mistakes? Do I put my feelings before any one else’s?

If you can have a mental conversation with yourself about where you currently stand in life, you have taken the first step to realizing who you are and what steps you need to take to love yourself and live your most fulfilling life. The next step is to take action. I believe taking action is the toughest step. For one, it is hard to admit AND accept, that ultimately we are the only ones responsible for our happiness… not our best friend, not our spouse, not our parents, etc.  People are temporary and until we can grasp this concept, we will feel like people always let us down. No one should have expectations from anyone but themselves. Don’t wait for others to do things with you or for you that you can do for yourself. LOVE yourself , take care of your thoughts, take care of your spirit. Always remember that you only have one life to live and every day should be a day of working on your self-growth so you may live a self-fulfilling life.

Best of luck on this journey,