Who can I identify with?

   

 
In life I have always been expected to choose a box- white, black ,Asian or other. Technically society states there are only 3 races, so choosing other is like saying you’re not of a defined race. It puts you in a weird place where you kind of have to choose one of the 3 because if you don’t you’re alien.  I feel like I come from a heritage in which we can’t really pick one, but we want to so we can feel like we belong. 

My awareness of race began like it does with most people. I was on a class trip in kindergarten at the Bronx zoo and my parents chaperoned. My dad bought my whole class souvenir pencils from the gift shop and handed them to all my classmates. All of a sudden a friend of mine turned to me shocked and said “I didn’t know your dad was from Africa”. I remember being very confused. My parents laughed and I didn’t understand why, all I knew was that my father was most definitely not from Africa. As I grew older I realized how pivotal that moment was in my life. It made realized how different I was physically from my father. Prior to that my father was not white or black to me, he was Dominican. African American or African never even enters our mentality because we identify as Hispanics. Because of our language and culture most Dominicans do not identify with the continent of Africa as our mother land regardless of the fact that 90% of our a ancestral DNA reveals that we in fact are mostly descendants of enslaved Africans brought over to Hispaniola by the Europeans.

So here’s the thing my appearance tells the world I am white. And as a child I never questioned that – I was a white Hispanic. Yet as soon as someone pointed out my differences my perception of myself changed. I felt guilty, I felt like my appearance wasn’t portraying who I was really was. But then again who am I racially? My mother is a puertorican of light skin along with her whole family who all have light skin and light colored eyes ranging from hazel to blue. And my father is a dark skinned Dominican who comes from a mixed family who are light and dark. Why do I have to choose whether I’m white or black? How can I say I’m white just because of my skin color when biologically I’m black too. And I know the label thing is tricky and unfair. But labels exist and like it are not we are sometimes forced to choose.

All my life I’ve tried to figure out what group I belong to. Am I biracial? Am i not? Am I any race? There was a time when I thought I was bi racial. But it didn’t feel right. Puertorican and Dominican culture is so similar I don’t really feel like we re different groups. I love both cultures, it’s part of my lifestyle, my persona and my essence. I love salsa as much as I love merengue… I love pasteles as much as I love locrio. You get the point. And then there’s an even broader group that I’m part of because of the language I speak. I feel a connection with Latinos and Hispanics in general because of the language we share. Our language brings us together regardless of what country we’re from. And I love that. 

Pregnant with my second child, i know my children are going to be labeled as white or white Hispanics. As my husband is a light skin Dominican with green eyes. But I also want them to be aware of their mixed roots on both sides. I don’t want them to feel that superiority that some Dominicans on the island feel because of their skin color. Race in the Dominican Republic is something that Dominicans struggle with. I have been treated better than my father because of my whiteness. I have had family members tell me not to mix with a Dominican guy because even the white ones have African blood. I have been given priority over native Dominican girls in public settings because I’m a “gringa” or what they call a “Rubia”. And I don’t want my children growing up thinking that’s normal. I don’t want them to think that just because their skin is white theyre not black too. And when I use the word black in this context I mean of true African decent. Which while we don’t identify with that mother land I am not about to deny that my family are from those people as much as they are from the Europeans of the Iberian peninsula.

So without having to complete a DNA kit with ancestry.com – Now that I’m older, I realize that while I have to deal with labels and stigmas I don’t need to choose to belong to one specific thing. I can embrace my whiteness and my blackness. I can embrace that I’m mixed like most people really are -even though we want to belong to one group. Skin deep we are just humans and biologically we are one race. It’s about time we start recognizing that and love each other regardless of the label life has assigned to us.

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The lonely girl

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How could you forget to tell her you love her?

How could you assume that she knows ?

Don’t you know that she needs not only to hear it, but to see it too!

Don’t you know that lack of affection will follow her for the rest of her life?

Don’t you know that when you yell and fight, she yells and fights internally too.

That when you strike her you kill a part of her.

And when you forget her-she abandons herself.

That lonely girl never forgets all the times you never hugged her back or praised her accomplishments.

She never forgets your taunts.

Your screams.

Your hate.

Your violence

She’ll always feel like she was your failure.

And she’ll always carry that with her

Oh, if you would have told her you loved her

Maybe..

she would still be here.

Leadership

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As I mentally prepare myself to return to work, I’m trying to decide what type of leader I want to be. Managing people for almost 7 years I’ve learned that in order to improve as a leader I have to constantly change my strategy and approach. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. And every time I’m assigned to a different location to lead a new team of people, I find myself trying to mold and change their ways.

Being a leader at my job means being the bad guy. I am the person who has to make the hard decisions. I have to make decisions based on what’s best for the business and not necessarily what’s best for my workers. Being the bad guy means I have to remove my emotions and be the neutral party. And I’m ok with that. I’m good at managing. I enjoy  seeing the fruits of all my hard work. I put my heart and soul into what I do. I have sacrificed my time and sanity to my work. And I’m ok with being known as a strict and tough leader. 

Leading by example is essential and for the first time ever I have to be a working mother. Many times I have had issues with my workers because they struggle to keep commitments due it their children. While I internally sympathized with them I still had a job to do and if they couldn’t keep their commitments; regardless of the reason I had to be firm and institute disciplinary actions. Now as a mother I truly understand what that can feel like. What type of leader will I be now that I’m a mother?

In the past I was able to work overnight, pull 12 hour shifts. Run to my store at moments notice and be available to my people literally 24 hours a day. Can I really do that now as a mother? Should I even want to? Can I really miss deadlines when my daughter is sick or under perform due to lack of sleep from a crying baby at night. Can I really allow myself to slack and expect my people not to? I never allowed my workers to use their personal life as an excuse, so how can I?

I think that eventually I’ll learn how to balance the two. My daughter will always be my top priority but if I want to provide for her I need to excel at work. Managing people is not a new job for me. Being mommy and boss is. And the type of leader I want to be is one who can be compassionate but firm. One who could make others follow her tune without instilling fear in them. One who will love her daughter above everything and will teach her the value of honest work and always staying true to her commitments.

Addiction/ Tough love

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Accepting others is not an easy thing. It’s easy to judge another person when we have never been in their shoes. When  dealing with an addict, is it right to give them tough love? Or is it our obligation to shoulder their demons and stand by them no matter what.

I always felt that people should be held accountable for their own actions. Adults need to take responsibility for their errors. In my stubbornness I have stood my ground in believing that alcoholism is a choice. No one forces you to drink – this is true. Yet can I be so naive to not acknowledge that once someone Is addicted there is no turning back. That person will be an alcoholic for the rest of their life and without the love and support of others they may never have control of their life again.

Alcoholism ruins families. It can poison everyone around you. And it’s just as hard for the addict to accept it  as for the addicts’ family.

I didn’t want to accept that he had a problem. At first we make the excuses – “oh, he just likes to party , he only drinks on the weekends, he can control it”. Then we try to ignore it. Once it’s too apparent we get angry. We start questioning who’s to blame and where it went wrong. We try to intervene and we truly realize the seriousness of the problem we start the long journey of trying to accept and help the person.

It’s hard when the person doesn’t want the help. It makes you feel hopeless. It makes you mourn the person they once were. I look back at our childhood and I mourn him. He was my best friend, we did everything together. I always wanted to protect him. But I refuse to be his enabler just because I love him. I’m not going to sugar coat or cover up his mistakes. I want to help him face his problems head on. No babying , no making excuses.

But where do I even start? Is it even my responsibility?

“Best friends”

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I’ve had a couple of best friends in my life. Friends are weird because there is a point in everyone’s life when you just grow apart from people. People who you think you have everything in common with and you think they’ll be there for you forever. I have friendships of 20 years, 10 years and even 5 months.  But it’s common to just connect with that one person. You set expectations high because you think they’re never going to fail you. You mourn the loss of that friendship as if it was a family member. And then you just move on.

Sometimes I just think we should just stop looking for family in our friends. We shouldn’t try to force family and friends to be the same thing. It is possible to find a friend who can become your family but it shouldn’t be forced. It should be a choice. The person should choose to love you forever and stay by your side unconditionally. This is what makes a true best friend special because unlike family- they can choose you.

My baby blues

When I gave birth to my daughter I never imagined I would have all these emotions. Sure- I knew my life was going to change but I don’t think I could have ever truly prepared myself to deal with it all. People talk to you about postpartum depression and baby blues. But I always thought about it as someone else’s problem. I was so happy to be pregnant. My pregnancy was tuff but the love for my baby was always there. I knew that I would be forever in love the moment I held her in my arms. 

At first everything was great. When I gave birth I felt empowered as a woman. I felt invincible. It gave me a confidence that I never had before. I found out things about myself I never knew and I began to have these new feelings. Me and my husband were in our own little heaven.

I thought to myself that I was doing a good job. I had overcame the initial hardships of breast feeding , my daughter was gaining weight, I was learning her likes and dislikes. I was a good mom! But in time feelings of guilt crept up on me. It came out of no where. One minute I was fine and then the next I was sad. I became worried of whether something I was doing was going to damage her permanently. I would get these waves of anxiety. When I was alone with her I could see myself In my head dropping her. I would watch her sleeping-not being able to take my eyes away because in my head i knew she was going to stop breathing. The anxiety is at its worst when I’m alone with her. Once my husband comes home from work, I try to take a break from her. I hand her over to him and try to clear my mind.

My daily mission now is to try to distract my mind. I try to go out and spend time with other people so I don’t have to feel anxious. I’m never apart from her , we’re always together. I let people help me, I’m not alone with her all day like before. When she cries I feel ok because someone else is around. I’m less anxious because I keep myself distracted.

I’m not sure if distracting myself is the best way to cope. I haven’t been honest about this to anyone. I’m good at putting on a brave face. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a bad mother. I don’t have thoughts of hurting my baby. I just can’t shake the thoughts of incompetence, loneliness and fear. I sometimes resolve by fighting with my husband and taking my anger and frustrations out on him. I’m jealous because he doesn’t have to go through what I’m going through. Poor guy, he has been nothing but an angel to me. He loves me everyday and is an amazing father.

At the end of the day this all brings me to question myself:

why are we so scared to be weak? And why is it so hard to admit it? Why is being weak during this time of my life so bad?

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