The Land I Loved

The day I left was the saddest day of my life as an adult. The funny part is? I didn’t have anything to really hold me there. In other words, it’s not like I was leaving anything behind per say, only the dreams of my future.

It didn’t hit me as we were placing all of our belongings out onto the curb. My things that I had worked so hard for just out there exposed and left behind. It didn’t hit me as we pulled away and watched as the neighborhood I had called my home for the last year fade away from view. Everything that had become familiar to me that year was slowly fading and with each second that ticked by it was all becoming just a part of my past.

The silence during the first half hour of our car ride was needed because the lump in my throat wouldn’t have allowed for otherwise. It was once my turn signal indicated our arrival onto the interstate, and that moment of me looking into the rear view mirror, that a warm sadness washed over me. California had won. A true and real feeling of failure is what ran through my veins. It wouldn’t be for weeks that I would get to feeling like “me”again and then even still, it was a hurt “me”, a healing “me”.

My eyes welled up, the tears hot and intrusive. I could no longer hide my hurt once they overflowed and ran from the hiding spot behind my sunglasses and down my cheeks. I didn’t even bother to wipe the tears. What for? The pain was real and there was no sense in hiding it. Instead I chose to live through the emotion, actually feel what it was I was going through. I had fallen in love and for me this death was worth the mourning.

I’m sure many reading this will think I’m being dramatic. Only those who have taken risks and failed will understand where I’m coming from and really, those are the people I’m talking to. Only you are the ones who can relate. If you’ve never been through something similar, if you’ve never failed before and were left with nothing more than a a hole in your heart, read this and realize, your day is coming. That is for sure. It’s best you read up so you’re not blindsided as I was.

As a kid I had always dreamed of living in the rural parts of California. I had seen so many pictures and documentaries, the lay of the land in northern California was like a dream. The first computer I ever got that could actually surf the internet, I spent time looking up and researching places around the U.S that had always interested me. Cali was definitely my number one. I didn’t want to head there to be rich and famous. Fuck that. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I wanted to live in California because it was something that had called to me as a child. Those beautiful mountains. The sky which seemed to always look so candy colored. The way the leaves turned to those amazing autumn tones in the fall with bright yellows, oranges, and reds. It was no surprise to anyone who knew me that the second I had cash saved up, off I was. I drove out to the West Coast without a moment’s hesitation. The people in my life dishonestly supporting me didn’t deter me. It was my dream, not theirs, that I was hunting for.

I had been purposely positive throughout the three days it took to drive there. I thought about how quick I would find a job. I thought about how awesome it would be to live in the new apartment, in my new neighborhood, with my new neighbors. I imagined all the cool places I’d finally get to see. Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd, the Sunset Strip. If there were any doubts at any point in time, I crushed them with thoughts of positivity. There would be no Negative Nancies in my head bringing me down. No sir. I was (still am) a firm believer in the Law of Attraction so for me, negative thoughts weren’t even an option. It wasn’t until a year later that I looked back and realized, maybe the negative thoughts that would slip into my mind here and there was just life trying to prepare me for what would later be a shocking reality. But like Karma I find Hindsight to be a bitch.

My theory on Los Angeles’ smog problem is that it isn’t pollution, per say, that is floating above everyone’s head. It is my belief that the layer of smog that always lingers are the souls of the innocent who venture out to L.A and never return to be the same again. I mean hell, they don’t call it the City of Angels for no reason. I imagine it being like a trap box for the innocent. The interior of this box looks so appealing. It’s dressed up in opportunities and gold. Shiny things hang in its interior, attracting you like a fly to a light bulb. You get there one way, with a pure and maybe even naive way of being. Before long, the doors to this box snap shut and you are trapped inside, doing things out there to survive that you never thought you’d  have to do.

Yea, as a child I dreamed of going to Northern Cali but the opportunity arose for me in L.A. I figured that I could get myself started in the city. It would be my first foot through the door and then once I saved up a bit I would migrate up north.

I never even made it to saving up.

The California life is expensive. The cost of living was ridiculously high and real jobs were scarce. Just by looking around, the amount of homeless people or those collecting cans and plastic could be proof of what I’m telling you. My story during this time could have gone many different ways. It could have gone better. It could have gone way worse. It’s kinda funny because now thinking about it, they way I lived in L.A was so carefree, it was almost as though I was tempting danger to come dance with me. The streets of Los Angeles, the devil’s playground, and I was out and about living as if I were still out on the Island of Sanibel. I spoke to strangers. I would go out and try to explore my surroundings and many times, during this exploration, I would get lost and wind up on a block a didn’t belong. The drinking was out of control and there were more than a handful of times that in a moment of sheer blackout, would take my car and attempt to drive home. I always made it of course, but that is only because I have the best guardian angel out there protecting me.

There were so many mistakes I made when arriving to Cali. There were also many obstacles that also got in the way, obstacles that prolonged the feeling of settling down. I don’t think that in the year that I lived there did I feel at all settled.  Jobs weren’t working out. Food was scarce. Bills were piling up. The roller coaster of emotions and the stress were taking a toll on me. Secretly I would cry myself to sleep on almost every night. It would have been one thing if it would have just been myself that I needed to worry about. The fact that my sister decided to come along on my little adventure was what hurt me the most. Not because she came along with me but because she was suffering. This was my dream that I was trying to live out and now that it was going horribly bad she was suffering. To look at her face filled with so much anxiety and sadness really broke my heart to pieces and so the day I was confronted with the opportunity to return home, her face was the one I saw. In my mind, I saw her looking at me with the eyes full of hope of going back home, and that’s what made me break.

The decision was literally made from one day to the next and to be honest it wasn’t too hard of a decision to make. We were already 3 months behind on our rent. We had no food except for a bag of rice and a couple cans of tuna. By this time anytime we grocery shopped it was mainly baby food and soup cups that we ended up getting and that was to be split between my sister and I, along with my dog and her cat. Crazy right?

It had just been a few days before our planned departure that I had received an e-mail from our landlord stating that if we didn’t have the three months of rent we owed him within 48 hours, he would be there with police escort to evict us. Instead of leaving as planned, our trip back home was to be expedited. We gave our neighbor’s some of our things. Actually, we were trying to sell our stuff to them but after realizing that they were in no greater shape than we were, we freely gave things away. We then packed the car with whatever we could bring, but my small two door sports car couldn’t hold much, so we just left mostly everything behind. Like I mentioned earlier, the amount of people that are homeless or who rummage the garbage for food or things to help them get by is astronomical in L.A. So instead of leaving much of our stuff inside the apartment when we left, we decided to set what we could carry out on the curb for people to take. I mean for us it was like, “Well we can’t take it with us, so let’s leave it for those who will truly need it.” It was 6 am in the morning when we finished, the sun was just beginning to wake up. Our plan was to get out of there before our landlord showed up with his police escort. To be behind on a month’s rent is bad enough, but to owe three months is ridiculous. The fact that he hadn’t thrown us out sooner was a shock to me and a testament to how kind he was, for he was a really nice landlord, and there was no way my sister and I could face him.

As we got into my car, I noticed that there was already a family going through what was just a few seconds ago our belongings. It was truly a bittersweet moment that to even think about it now tugs at my heart.

I lost a lot on this adventure of mine to California. Not just my physical belongings but I also left behind a sliver of my dignity, piece of my heart, as well as a chuck of my soul. Yet, with my losing or leaving behind a few things I had also gained much more than that. I took with me my experiences of meeting new people, good and bad. I have taken and stored away beautiful memories and also some scary ones. Everything that I have obtained through my journey to and from California has served a wonderful purpose and have also gifted me with amazing stories for me to share. Who knows if I’ll ever go back and attempt at living there again but at least now I know somewhat of what I should be expecting.

There was a post I previously made about how I’ve only truly been in love twice. I’ll go ahead and correct myself by saying that it was three times. California. She is beautiful. She is enticing. She was a ruthless love.

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Art Work Credit: Jet Victory Follow on IG and FB

A Magical World Among Words and Pages

Birthdays? They were never a big deal at my house. Not because we weren’t special but because Mom really couldn’t afford it.

Problems? We didn’t share over dinner and talk things out. Instead we bottled feelings up. Emotions nicely pickled, to be opened up later when it was ripe and explosive.

Shit. We didn’t even really eat dinner as a family. Sure, we ate at the same time but it was my sister and I at the dinner table. Mom would sit in the living room watching her Latin soaps or eat standing up as she would hold down fort in the kitchen, making sure we didn’t over eat.

We never did anything cool after school. Mom was always too tired to ever really want to go out, so I looked forward to the weekends when I would go to work. That would be my social time.

My dad was never around. Even once my parents divorced and he had to pick us up every weekend he wasn’t around. For this daddy’s girl it was heartbreaking to have to go spend time with your father to only later realize he didn’t want to spend time with you. He spent every waking moment in his bedroom, watching Tv or listening to music and it was a rule that us kids were never allowed to knock on the bedroom door, unless it was a real emergency. If he wasn’t locked away in his room, he was downstairs on his computer. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized he was talking to women online, while his wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner or out back doing laundry. Needless to say, the few memories I have of him are bathed in feelings of heartache so I tend to never drive down memory lane.

In school I had only a small group of friends which over time I came to slowly realize I didn’t fit in with. They were rich, sophisticated, white girls with the privileges I could only dream of. They went on cool holiday vacations like skiing up north or Disney trips down south. They had the designer labels. The pretty hair. The expensive make-up. They cheered for the school’s teams. They had the good looking guys falling at their feet.

Me? I was a frizzy haired Latina. My clothes were always from the clearance rack. I didn’t know how to really wear make-up but it didn’t matter because Mom wouldn’t buy me any anyways. I dreamed of joining the cheer leading team but to join any after school activity was an impossibility. With Mom always working, car rides to and from the games and school, it was a no go. Plus, who would take care of my sister??

It wasn’t long before the differences between my “friends” and I were too much for them to bare. I was, one day randomly, excommunicated from the group. Hours turned to days. Days into weeks. Weeks into months. I was alone in school. I was alone at home. My friends didn’t want to deal with me anymore and my poor mother working two and three jobs just to be able to raise my sister and I wasn’t able to deal with me. At this point in my life I saw the world as everyone else’s except mine. For some reason it was as though I didn’t deserve the world and I couldn’t figure out why.

It was a shitty time in my life, those pre-teen years of mine. During that school year in which I had been excommunicated from the group, that was also the time in which I was sexually molested by a distant family member. You know what they say, “when it rains it pours..” and for me that year was like a goddamn tsunami. I didn’t speak to anyone about what was going with me but I didn’t have to speak verbally for my demeanor spoke volumes. Unfortunately, the fact that I had shut down emotionally was chalked up to what was me entering my teenage years and this attitude I carried was to be expected. Why hadn’t I spoken up?? I was scared. It’s true what they say, many abusers threaten their victims into staying quiet. They threaten them and their family, most times shifting the blame from themselves onto the victim, stating that if they talk to anyone they will be hated for ruining the family. That was exactly what happened to me.

It was the very next day of when the molestation happened that I received and early morning phone call. It was Saturday morning and my mom was at work. I was at home babysitting my sister when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey Nata, is that you??” I recognized his voice immediately and it froze me into place. Where was he? Was he outside?? Was he watching me?? He was military so I imagined him having these crazy super powers like being able to get into my house to violate me without anyone knowing.

“Nata, you there?” I couldn’t speak so I just nodded my head.

“Listen, about yesterday, you have to be quiet. I know I already told you that but I just need to make sure you understand. You know I have a wife and my daughter. If they were to find out what you did you would get in a lot of trouble with them. Your family, like your mom and your abuelita, will stop talking to you because you let a man touch you. You hear me?? You cannot say anything or else everyone will get mad at you. You understand what I’m saying?” He spoke quickly and quietly.

“You get what I’m saying to you??” he repeated.

“Yes. I won’t tell.” I told him and with that I quickly hung up.

It’s weird because looking back I feel like I knew that what he did and what he was doing now by calling was wrong. I knew I should have told someone and that most likely my family wouldn’t get mad but the fear of the slim possibility that they might hate me and too excommunicate me, was huge. So I stayed quiet. I held that secret in for an entire year. It was the longest year of my life.

Anything that had to do with growing up and evolving I did on my own, independently. After a few weeks had gone by and still no word as to when my “friends” would be talking to me again, I dove head first into the world of words. I read and wrote from the moment I was settled on the school bus all the way through the day and way into the evening. The books that I read or the endless amount of journaling I did is what saved my life, multiple times. I’d get lost in these fictional worlds, headed out on these amazing adventures with these characters I wished were real. I wasn’t worried about paying attention in class or about having to get my homework completed. Did any of that really matter in the grand scheme of things?? Not in my world. What mattered to me was getting through my days with the least amount of pain as possible and school work got in the way of that. Some days were of course better than others, but in my mind, without the books, without the journals, my pain could have been a lot worse. Looking back on everything, it is no wonder that today it’s hard for me to personally connect with anyone. From a young age I grew up with the knowledge that people will always let you down, no matter who they are. To be honest, it was one great lesson to learn and better to learn it sooner than to get blindsided by disappointment later.

Today, although I love people and do consider myself quite the people person, I also know that I suffer a lot from the anxieties of having to deal with social and personal relationships. I call myself an extroverted introvert, meaning, it’s no problem for me to strike up conversations with strangers. I’m ok with going into a room full of people I do not know and having to mingle, yet at the same token I hate having to do so. I’ll go as far as to say that I absolutely dread it. It wasn’t until I had to start seeing a therapist as a part of my probationary conditions that it was pointed out to me my level of anxiety when it came to people and relationships. I suffer from social anxiety with strangers but also with the closest people in my life. I can make plans with family or friends and from the moment the plans are made I am in panic mode. I can’t make up my mind on whether or not to go through with the plans or break them. Most times, any plans I make with others I break. I begin to run through all of these different scenarios, all of which are negative, and before you know it I am talking my way out having to participate. I’m getting much better at dealing with this, through the help of books like the Secret, The Four Agreements, and other teachings that I have within the last few years discovered. Yet, I still find security at home, alone, with my pets. That is really the only time I ever feel comfortable. When I’m surrounded by others, buried deep within my mind is the fear of, which of all these people will hurt me next? How long will they be around for? How long will they be able to tolerate me for? My defenses are always up and to be honest it is quite exhausting. Yet as time passes I am grateful because throughout all the pain. heartaches, and let downs, I have become very strong.

I am slowly working on me. I finally have the time and the fortitude to simply let everything else go and just focus on myself and the things I need to get through. During the roughest moments of my life I have had only reading and writing to really help me get through. I sometimes hear of cases where kids are being bullied full-time, meaning at school as well as in the safety of their own homes, driving them to commit suicide. I see myself in so many of them that I cry with the pain of knowing how they felt. I often wish that they had had an outlet. I often wish that they had found a magical world within the pages of a book to save them. Something so simple and so obtainable as that and yet these kids couldn’t find their way towards survival. I guess maybe that’s why I write about everything and anything. Who knows who will end up coming across these words, who will scroll down these pages and find that comfort they needed. The comfort of knowing that one truly isn’t alone. That there are many others going through similar experiences and that only by sharing with one another will we be able to find solace not only within others, but more so within ourselves.

Maybe within these words someone will figure out that we are our own biggest project and it’s a project one must never quit on.

11380976_468219776660004_1021574899_n Photo Credit: Arturo G. Muse: Natal Galvan

 

 

Feeling Lost? You May Be Living for Others…

My parents divorced when I was only four years old. My sister wasn’t even one yet. It was almost instant that I was thrown into the role as “Mommy’s Little Helper” and although I was more than happy to help, it still wasn’t a role I chose.

Growing up wasn’t easy. Between trying to keep my grades afloat and helping out around the house, while also ultimately helping mom raise my sister, I’ve never really had a true and unique identity. Sure, I knew my name and what my favorite color was but anything deeper than that I could attribute it to someone else. They way I talked, the way I thought about certain things, it wasn’t 100% me but a compilation of everyone else.  It seemed that at that very point in my life I was always trying to please everybody else. The weekdays were dedicated to trying to impress my teachers and friends. After school was the time to really show my mom what a big girl I was and would win her over by helping with the day to day chores as well as serving as an entertainer/baby sitter for my sister. I spent every waking moment with that little rascal once school was out for the day and every summer break was dedicated to being with her from sun up till sun down. For 20 years her and I shared a room. We woke up together, we’d play together, we’d fight and cry, and tear each other’s hair our a few times a month. It’s no wonder how she ended up being my best friend after all these years.

The weekends were rough because that was a completely different world than what I was used to. I had to spend the weekends at my father’s house. Not only were they a different culture to absorb, but the stress that came along with having to deal with him and his new family (5 step brothers and his “younger than my mother by many years” wife) were a burden. It wasn’t long before I began to hate going to go visit him and eventually I would stop going all together. Still, during the time I did have to visit, it was a time in which I had to put who I was on hold just to please them, just to avoid ridicule. It wasn’t until I graduated high school and moved out of state, away from everything I knew, that I began to uncover who I truly was but even still, that too took time. I had been conditioned to be a people-pleaser and that made it hard to live life as I wanted.

I moved to Florida in ’08 and within the year I was signed up to school. I enrolled as a Forensic Psychology student. I had a plan. I was to work 5 days and go to school 3 days, taking 3 classes at a time. I wanted to plow through school while working, graduate, and then enter my career. That was almost 9 years ago and still I haven’t graduated.

One of my truest reasons as to why I haven’t graduated yet is due to finances. The other 95% I wouldn’t discover until just recent . It wasn’t until after my retreat from California, and about two years after I left Jersey for the second time, that I realized what my underlying issue was. I truly was at a loss for I really didn’t know who I was, and in turn, had no clue as to what I wanted for my life.

I look back to most of the decisions I’ve made in my life as a young adult and although most times I felt as though I was choosing to do what was best for me, I realized that instead I was making decisions based on what would make my family happy. The choice to move to Florida and make it on my own was truly my choice but that came after tons of time with my uncle convincing me to do so (Thanks Unc!). The major I picked to study in school was something I picked due to what I happened to really like to read at the time, but what really nailed it in for me was how happy my mother got when I told her what I wanted to study. “Hay Nati, that’s so good!! You can find a job with the government and get great benefits!! You would never have to worry about anything!” She’d tell me with joy in her voice. How could I study anything else when mama bear was so happy??

School wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be and I don’t mean academically. Honestly, FGCU isn’t a very tough school to complete. My problem was the level of dedication I had for it. It was hard for me to place so much energy into something that wasn’t giving me immediate payouts. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going to classes. Learning is paramount for me but it was everything else that came along with it. I lived off campus and so when I wasn’t in class or at the library studying, I was working or at home completing my homework. My life didn’t have much substance other than that. I wasn’t making friends due to the fact I wasn’t ever really on campus unless it was to attend class and I for sure didn’t have time to go out and meet people. Basically, all I ever did was work and go to school. I wasn’t traveling nor meeting people. It was a very “blah” time in my life and soon I began to question my purpose for doing all that I was doing.

I took an Ethics class during my last full semester at FGCU before deciding to move cross country. Mr.Mathews’ class was amazing and it truly changed my life for the better. In this class I was introduced to the Law of Attraction, The Secret, and many other life changing ideals like meditation and chakra cleansing. I learned about vibrations within the Universe and how to break away from the conditioning society has placed on us. This class was the end of who I was before and the beginning of who I was becoming. This class was what triggered my self discovery and since then there hasn’t been a day that goes by that I am not grateful for this time in my life.

It’s been about five years since I took that class and since then, finally at almost the age of 30, I have been making many of my own decisions. Some have worked out in my favor while others happened to be nothing more than a learning lesson. Sure, life hasn’t been perfect but I can’t even pretend that it ever will be. Yes, there have been moments in which I may have gone off the deep end a little. You know what they say about idle hands right? Yet still, I am grateful for every rough second I spent, or crazy situation I’ve been in. It has been an aid in my self discovery process and better yet, they have been choices I made because I wanted to make them. How awesome is that!?? Its taken some time but I’m beginning to slowly figure shit out. I’m starting to see what it is I like and where I see my future headed. I don’t take society or even family (anymore) into account when I dream up my future. I’ve done enough of that and look at where it got me. Following others and what they want for me has done nothing but confuse me and slow down my growing process when it comes to life and what I want to get out of it while I’m here.

I’m sharing this because I understand what many people go through when it seems like they’re lost and have no clue as to what to do with their lives. I understand because I too lived my life for quite some time for everyone else BUT for myself. It leaves you in a state of disorientation. Many people are going through this exact situation and don’t even realize why it is that they feel the way they do. If just by reading this I can help one confused person feel better as to why they feel the way they do then this time spent writing this was not time wasted.

Now that you’ve read this and feel that maybe you could fall in this criteria of living life for others, it’s time that you begin to start living life for yourself.No matter the age or the stage of life your in, you can begin to take control of it. Start setting healthy boundaries with others and begin to replenish and take care of yourself. Also, go into your self discovery knowing that there will be choices you make that may turn out not the way you planned. Realize that that is OK and that that is the beauty and purpose of life. No one life is perfect so to have that level of thinking would be harmful to your Self. The world is imperfect and it is in those very same imperfections that you’ll find happiness, bliss, adventure, and life in its purest form. Living this dream we call life in its purest form will aid you in your self discovery and you will live a good and happy life.

In the end of it all, what more could we want than to live out life the way we were meant to live it if not happily and with full hearts??