It was on August 1, 2010 that my life took a change for the better and although I knew everything I came to know would dissappear and that only greater times were up ahead, I couldn’t explain the vast emptiness nestled in a deep pocket pinching away at my stomach. There weren’t butterflies or joy. There was only panic and anxiety. So, when hung up the pay phone down the street from my house, I simply didn’t smile.
All my life, my twenty years of being alive, I’d been told, “No,” by my parents. I’d been scolded for using the wrong kind of cup to drink the wrong kind of beverage. Mugs were for drinking tea and coffee, not water or juice. My dad would always tell me that I had to move out, find a job, support myself and find my own life when he’d taken it away from me years ago. I was an undocumented girl. And it was all his fault.
When we arrived to the Unites States, I was one, and my older sister was four, my mom, a pregnant woman about to give birth to her third child. They knew very little English and much less about immigration and so when they over-stayed their Visa they saw nothing of it, but when the opportunity arose for my dad to get petitioned for legal status through his work, he did nothing but spend the money away for the lawyers. And so I grew up without any kind of legal status and found out in high school that I was undocumented, believing all along that I’d been a citizen. I was mistaken. And so it came as a massive shock to me, to discover this all as a seventeen year old with high expectations for the future. College was suddenly unattainable. And there again was that voice, my fathers’ forceful voice, bellowing, “No.” I couldn’t have that better life. There was nothing to strive for anymore if it amounted to nothing in the end. And despite the wretched fact that he’d stolen this dream from me, I still had to face him every single day, living in with him and depending on him. Because the most hurtful thing he’d stolen from me, said, “No,” to was to my freedom.
I would forever have to live with him. It dawned on me that I’d have to go to his bedroom every morning for years to come and ask him for money to go out and run errands. As a twenty year old, I’d have to ask him for permission to go to a restaurant with my boyfriend and not know whether or not he’d say yes or no or merely make me beg for a while for his pure entertainment. I’d have to hear him say that he hated me and hear him scream that he wanted me out because I was an awful daughter. I’d have to stay there and take hits to the face and hear his hurtful words every single day because he felt bad about himself, but refused to admit it. He’d taken away my freedom and tormented me everyday even though he knew I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to. He’d built this empire, this box, locking in my older sister and my mom and me, and emotionally abused us because he was never man enough to own up to his mistakes and still I say it’s okay.
Everything happens for a reason.
So when I hung up that phone, I was completely paralyzed because for once in my life, someone had told me, “Yes,” and suddenly there was a God. Everything fit firmly into place. Here there was this woman I’d been speaking to that told me she would become my legal guardian which meant that I would be able to move out of my abusive home and gain permanent residency in the United States over the course of six months. I’d be able to worry about paying bills and getting rent money and looking for a job, all major stresses; it was all okay if only it meant that I wouldn’t have to worry about what I’d do wrong to have my dad yell at me. Any type of living was better than this life, right now, the one with a hazy ending with no opportunity at all.
Going through with the process would mean that I’d have to live in a shelter for six months with no job or money and only metro cards to go to therapy once a week. It meant that I’d have to move all my things out of my house and into my friends place just to keep it there. It meant having to suffer for six long months worrying about the essentials like soap and toothpaste and getting laundry done and it all seemed like a terrible way of life. For six whole months! But the thing about this path was that there was a definite, clear ending. There was this bright attainable hope for an actual future and freedom. And I would take that road, which was a scary thought. It was scary to be told, “Yes, there’s a future out there for you and we’re going to give it to you,” when all my life I’d been told, “No.” I had to suddenly re-program the way I thought, I had to trust my intuition and fend for myself and it was weird and scary, especially when I’d had a big burly abusive dad at the forefront telling me that life was hard and that I was lucky to have him. Lucky to have him? I’d have to break from this mentality of being attached to the abuser and believing that I could do things on my own if I only tried. I had to try.
And I was aware that I would kick and scream and cry through it all and that it would be the most mentally exhausting six months in my life, but for the first time I’d be going through with something purely for my own benefit. This is what I’d have to remind myself for six months. And that thought alone was worth the world. August 1, 2010. The day my life changed. It all started here.