Written Mar 25, 2019
So a couple weekends ago I booked a flight to Portland on a slightly last minute whim because I needed a weekend away from Houston. I also had to cancel another trip I was supposed to take so I said screw it, let me finally go see my beautiful friend Judy.
I get there and the whole time I’m sending my mom pictures of all the beautiful scenery and just feeling so guilty that I’m out seeing all of this, without her. Does this happen to anyone else? Because literally every trip I take, or any big event I go to that I feel like she’d enjoy, that guilt kicks in QUICK.
I have to take a step back and dig deep down and think of why I feel this way. The older I get it seems like the harder it is for me to enjoy myself without this thought constantly lingering in the back of my mind.
So there’s always one event specifically etched in my memory and that makes the heaviness of all this so much worse. Not long ago my mom told me a story of a random Friday night when I was about 7 years old. We were home, just chilling and watching TV together. Home at that time was the little apartment we lived in in the hood (still is ‘cause this come up is taking your girl a longggg time). Our home was empty except for the small hand me down TV we had from my aunt (I think? Someone gave it to us) and the pile of blankets we had in the bedroom as our makeshift bed. Yup, times were that hard.
My mom loved this place, she still does. It was the first place she could call home. Ever since she had gotten to Houston from El Salvador she had never had a whole apartment on her own. She lived with my uncle and aunt for some time, then my dad (which more often than not was hell), then my aunts again when we left his home. We were wanderers in the world and every time we always felt like a burden to our family.
Here we were on this Friday night and apparently, I got this undying craving for a pizza. Sounds normal right? Well little did I know that this was a nearly impossible luxury at the time. My mom was a single mom but on top of that, an undocumented single mom. She’d cleaned houses my whole life, but she also refused to live a life where she sacrificed being home with me after school in order to afford more “things.” We never had much, but I always had my mom.
Years later in a spurt of consciousness she told me that one of those nights when she caved to her little girls’ cravings, she was spending the last twenty dollars she had to her name.
So fast track to present day. It usually hits me when I’m sitting on a plane, about to take off to the next destination. Now, you can imagine how much I love going on adventures if darn pizzas were a luxury growing up. I love walking through an airport with my luggage, feeling so proud that I not only can afford to be there, but that I am familiar with the environment. The airiness gets to my head a little bit once I zip through the TSA line because, obvs, your girl has pre check *insert sassy hand emoji* and I’m not about to wait in line.
All that leads to those few minutes of waiting in my seat as everyone settles down before takeoff. My mind invariably jumps to my mom and that darn pizza. For one, I always wish she was coming with me, but she never really wants to. Two, I always feel so bad that this is what I’m spending my money on. What if there’s an emergency later on and I should’ve been saving? What if my mom needs me and instead of being home every second of every day like she was, I’m out enjoying myself and “living my best life.” And every time, I quietly choke up a little bit, partly because I’m always crying, partly because I feel so guilty.
Now my moms not sitting at home wishing she was doing all these things either. She’s happy where she’s at, with life as it’s unfolded. And we do plenty of things, just not as often as I’d like to. This tension I feel is more so a battle with myself. I always want more for her. I always want to shower her with everything she hasn’t been able to have. I’m always troubled because financially I haven’t been able to provide for us like I’ve always wanted to.
Then usually, after a few minutes of bringing my woes and fears to a slow simmer, I catch my breath right when the pilot tells us to make sure we’re buckled up for takeoff. During one of my therapy sessions a while back, I described this feeling to my therapist and she made an observation which I’ll never forget.
I am wanting my mom to live a life based off of what I perceive as “good” and “happiness” for her. But I’ve realized throughout the years that my mom is mostly just happy spending time with myself and our family. She enjoys being surrounded by the people she loves and taking care of them. The glitz and glam of jumping from one plane to the next isn’t even on her radar, but getting everyone together for Thanksgiving dinner? Now we’re talking.
That’s not to say that every now and then she wants to explore the world, of course she does. But it isn’t something that I should use to beat myself up about, which I think a lot of us First Gen-er’s tend to do.
Whether it’s our parents, or our siblings, or loved ones around us, take the time to consider if some of the pressure you put on yourself is actually real, or if it’s a reality you’ve concocted because you have a preconceived notion about what life should look like for the people around you.
Remember what matters most to yourself, and what matters most to your loved ones. As long as you’re meeting those goals, then don’t bog yourself down about what society tries to tell you you should be doing. I struggle with this still, but when I genuinely take the time to remember how blessed I am, it always makes a huge difference on my perspective of where I am in life.
Til next time amigos, #bemighty!