I’m running away from a thief, making sharp turns and dodging the obstacles in my way. Until I make it down a dark alley and find myself at a dead end. The thief violently reaches for me and, in the process of stealing something, notices I’m wearing an undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic t-shirt. The thief quickly goes through my purse, pulls out my foreign passport and an empty zebra-print wallet. S/he shouts, “where’s your money?!” my voice is shaky but I quietly reply, “I am unemployed”. The thief questions me about my passport, I summarize my undocumented life story into 2 seconds and the response is, “you have nothing of value for me to steal”. Suddenly, that famous sensation of falling down an endless pit wakes me up, I’m able to see my dog sleeping at my feet and my room slowly comes into focus; it is 3 o’clock in the morning and my heart is beating faster than a drum. I am even undocumented in my nightmares.
I thought dreams and nightmares are to escape reality, but it seems that for me, my reality follows me everywhere. The trauma of being undocumented is great enough that I’m able to compare any song or movie to something immigration related. For example, you see Bruno Mars’ Grenade? Well, instead of “I’d jump in front of a train for yaaa” my remix sings, “I’d jump in front of an I.C.E agent for yaaa”. I can’t even see the word “dream” without thinking “act”.
However, these aren’t just plain scenarios in my head that I forget the next morning. Prior to having nightmares, I’m usually wide awake in my bed thinking about the uncertain future ahead of me and the crappy immigration present I’m living in. Sometimes, as I’m lying there, I read through emails and social media messages. Some of these messages will most likely be related to the Ask Angy advice column, or campaign developments, many of them are youth seeking the hope and support I myself need in that very moment; support that I many times don’t ask for. I then start to feel like a fraud for trying to help others and forgetting about myself. I feel useless and helpless at the fact that I can’t physically make everything better. I start to question my self-worth, was the thief right? Is there nothing of value in me? Turning the pillow over, not to find the cold side but to find reasons to get out of bed the next day. I then worry and stress over so many things I can’t control that I ultimately start to cry, end up falling asleep with dried tears imprinted on my cheeks, swollen eyes and a lump in my throat. That same lump has been there since I became actively aware of my immigration status, no matter how much I cry, it never seems to go away.
During the past few weeks I haven’t been able to sit down and compose an e-mail response to the many questions clouding my inbox. I haven’t been able to formulate an entire opinion piece because I felt I had no words left in me; it was greater than writer’s block. I read the Ask Angy emails and got frustrated with myself for not being able to do more than simply respond to an email. I started questioning my abilities and even my involvement as an activist, how is answering an email helping anyone? If others knew that I’ve cried myself to sleep or looked in the mirror and hated the person I saw, would they still have thought I was a strong, independent and inspirational mujer like the emails suggested? If the people that submitted questions knew that I don’t have a lot of things figured out in my own life, would they still e-mail seeking advice?
I was interviewing my mom a few days ago for something totally unrelated to this opinion piece and I found the answers to these questions without even looking for them. I’ve come to understand that the beauty of this fight isn’t how perfect, or squeaky clean, we pretend to be but how we overcome the many obstacles ahead of us. This is why, for many of us, our parents are our s/heroes. Our parents, who have been face to face with death while crossing the border all because of uncertain dreams waiting for them somewhere on the United States horizon, who left it all behind and deposited their hopes, and wishes, into their children, us. Our parents, who sacrifice themselves each day to help us complete our goals.
When I’m having a difficult day I remind myself that it may be a crappy day but it isn’t a crappy life and that I’m not the only person out there feeling like this; in fact, UndocuHealth.org highlights many more stories. My mother always told me, “nadie dijo que iva a ser facil” no one said it was going to be easy. I’ve come to understand that inspiration isn’t based on how successful one is but how one faced adversity before reaching the stars, those are the choices that matter. It isn’t about playing the victim card but becoming and living empowered, and to be empowered we must first struggle.
While the tear-filled-sleepless nights are not over, the words are flowing. Actually, they’re flowing so much that I can’t seem to focus on one single post, which means I’m coming back into my original skin. While living undocumented is going to have an emotional toll on me, I know I can push myself through this. At the end of the day, I create my strength when there is none and I need to trust in myself to get through this. Sometimes, only I can help me but I also need to be able to seek help when necessary. I was starting to lose sight of why I was even involved in the first place, drowning myself in doubt and frustration instead of taking it one day at a time, I now see that being perfectly imperfect is perfectly fine.