When I graduated college, it was time to “adult”! Once I had accepted the fact that the USA was my new home, it was time to hustle. A few visas later (and a lot of money in lawyer fees) I was already a permanent resident and was free to live my life as a quasi-American. My first job paid me a whooping $25K per year, not exactly what I had envisioned and I learned rather quickly that the lack of guidance in my pre-college years had led me to the wrong career. But I honestly didn’t have time to dwell on it and I really tried to make the best of it. I worked in the mental health field for a while and one day I got the weird itch to move out of my parents’ house and try my own luck.
In a spur of the moment decision, I broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years, got a job in Tampa, rented an apartment, packed up all my stuff and left. When I look back on it, I think moving to Tampa was probably a crazy decision but at the time I felt right; it was something that was part of my process, something I needed to do. Even though most Hispanic families don’t see their children leave home until they get married, I was unknowingly raised as an American, with "American" thoughts and I was starting to realize that it just seemed “normal” to me that someone at 22 would leave home to live on their own. I often wonder how much longer I would have lived at home had we not come to the United States; I’m sure it would have been at least until marriage, maybe even beyond.
Emotionally speaking, my life in Tampa was a hot mess; I felt so lonely all the time and sadness always overtook whatever I was doing. My life was monotonous and the job I had was mediocre at best. Yes, I was working in corporate America, meeting new people and performing well, but this lonely, corporate-like life was not what I wanted for myself. And while I didn’t love it, the idea of feeling like a failure and going back to my parents’ house was even less appealing because I had already come out from under their wing and flying back to the nest didn’t exactly spell “success” so I stuck it out for a couple of months.
|With my friend (and co-worker) Jen in 2004|
|My friend Eva and I in Tampa|
By the 2nd month in Tampa, I was ready to throw in the towel; living alone was definitely not for me. I know it sounds extreme, but I literally used to cry myself to sleep 5 out of 7 days of the week; there was something about my “pretend” life dream that was making me borderline depressed. I view my time in Tampa as an out of body experience because now that I’m almost 40 I can’t really see myself living alone in another town. I made some good friends and experienced a lot of growth in my time away from home but in the end it just wasn’t enough to keep me where I was. I often wonder if I should have given the Tampa life a little more time, but if I had, I wouldn't be who I am today so I really have no regrets.
And just like I had decided to move out of my parents’ home, I decided it was time to go back, time to swallow my pride and save myself from making even more mistakes and living in perpetual depression and agony. A couple of weeks before I made the choice to scrap the “I’m ready to live alone” idea, I was hospitalized for some sort of severe food poisoning and found myself lonely in a local hospital; no one to call, no shoulder to cry on, no one to help me pack my things in a patient bag; I missed my mom and dad, I missed my sister and my cats and everything that had to do with a warm and caring family and stable home life. That hospital stay was probably a turning point for me and I’m glad I followed my heart and decided to go back home.
But before I moved back, I took a girls’ trip to NYC with my cousin Carolina and my good friend Eva. It was supposed to be a cathartic experience for me and it certainly was, the trip served as a time for me to reflect on regrets, changes, future decisions, growth, etc.
As we were walking around NYC one day, a strange looking lady grabbed my hand and said she wanted to read my palm. Me, being the skeptic I am, quickly shook my hand away and said “no, no, no!” and she kept insisting that I let her tell me about my future. I kept brushing her off and she followed me around for a bit until I finally agreed to let her tell me ONE thing. She said it was something that had to be said because she had a strong feeling about it. It was November 18th, 2004 and her exact words were “in exactly ONE year from today, you will be marrying a man you haven’t met yet and he will make you very happy, continue to follow your heart”. Of course I thought she was crazy, I was 22 years old and I wouldn’t call myself a romantic; marriage was definitely not on my mind…
(To be continued…)