Four young women told me on Tuesday that they had met me for a reason. I couldn’t help, but to think that it was the other way around. They each found a way to touch my heart, and say things that mattered to me during this time when I’m shifting my life. Either way, I met these women the same way that I met others throughout my life — at the right time, and in the right place. People walk through and out the revolving door of our lives, but there are those impactful souls that change it or help us define what it’s supposed to be.
It is an imaginary connection, a ray of light, or just a “feeling” of recognition. Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, you can’t shake off that strange feeling that you know this person or that you are connected in some way shape or form, unknown to your logic. Sometimes, it really just matters for the moment, other times they become part of your life story, or they save you from harm.
Unfortunately, I have way too many stories that my friends tend to make fun of by telling me that I have an army of protectors on this earth and above. Lately, I can’t help but to agree. Some of these stories will unveil as I keep sharing, for they are happening everywhere and it’s important for me to let others know that they’re not alone.
I can’t help but to think of my ‘tribe.’ My friends from college. We met each other during the most painful times of our lives. Our backgrounds weren’t too healthy as we were poor, broken, hurting, and most of us still living in abusive and domestic violent situations. My story: I failed three classes in my second semester, freshman year. Straight Cs and Ds down the line. I was afraid to talk to my professors, and tell them that there were things going on at home that I couldn’t tell them or simply just too embarrassed to share. I couldn’t possibly tell them that my books were being thrown out the window. Who goes through that, while being called a guerilla (a rebel in the Salvadorean civil war that my father called me when he was drunk to degrade the fact that most college students had joined the left side)? I lived under a roof that was not friendly to my going to college. Yet, I swallowed it, and kept getting up every morning and showing up to class. Luckily, I had a pretty good grade point average during my first semester, and I was able to keep my B minus level so that I could continue getting financial aid. I studied really hard every semester to get better grades until the very end, even though things at home kept pulling me back.
Due to my volatile home environment, I left when I was 17. I slept in the library for consecutive nights, and at times with friends so that I wouldn’t have to go home. My mother who didn’t understand the college life (or that her daughter had enough) would yell at me for not coming home like a good girl should. Yet, in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing — I was at a top school getting my education and I was going to finish it. Then, I met Yvonne Matos, a counselor in my program, and a wonderful woman who loved my writing. Between her and a few other counselors, I was able to get a dorm room on campus, paid mostly by loans and some by financial aid. I didn’t care how long I would pay that loan (still paying for it…happily). I needed to complete my degree and it was my only way to do it.
Throughout my involvement in leadership groups at NYU, I was able to meet Steven Cruz. He had been hired to represent the Latino student body at NYU. I have recently expressed to Steven about his saving my life back then, but I don’t think he realized or wants to take credit for it. I had no one to talk to about what was going on at home — or what was going on inside of me. Regardless, I joined his group called UJIMA, which is one of the pillars of Kwanzaa celebrating “leadership.” Steven did things that were out of the norm for the University, especially when he decided to take a whole bunch of Black and Latino students on a trip to Mexico. He knew that we would only learn outside of our environments. We needed to see what others in the world were going through and exercise our leadership skills.
He argued to the University that even though we were not scholars by grade point average that we were “scholars” in our families. Most of us were the first generation in our families going to college. He won the battle, and I only paid $250 for flight, room and board for an entire leadership week at the USSA University in Mexico City. That trip changed my life. I now know that money is not an obstacle — if I want it, I do it. I have promised myself since then to continue traveling, and getting to know the world as Steven set out for us to do. This man came into my life during a time when a few of us needed saving and inspiration.
I owe him more than he wants to take credit for, or maybe he doesn’t really know what he did. He feels that he simply just did his job. However, when a person puts their heart into their jobs it translates into something else. For some of us in my tribe — which is what I call my fellow ‘luchadores,’ it meant the world to us. When a human being takes that ‘parent’ role and believes in you, everything changes. I look around now, and we are marketers, teachers, psychologists, musicians, counselors, artists, writers, and the list goes on. We all made something of our lives. We were lucky to have met each other during this key time in our lives and uplift one another. Together we set out to change the world…or we set out to change someone’s world as Steven did ours.