Updated: Feb 25, 2018
I never realized how closely my ties were to my culture until I left the only place I had ever called home.
Although I was not born in Puerto Rico, I moved there at the age of four. All of who I am is Puerto Rican. The music, the food, the people, and the feelings, all shaped me into the person I am today.
Then when I was thirteen, my family and I moved to Florida. The culture shock was so strong I felt the waves hit me for months. Kids at school wondered if I could speak English (despite having no accent and, if you know me, my appearance would never give away my ethnicity). My teachers thought I would be behind educationally because of where I came from.
Most of my eighth grade year was spent sitting alone in a cafeteria table eating an Otis Spunker chocolate chip cookie. I'd cut it up into little pieces and eat slowly, just to make the time go by faster.
One day a girl named Molly came and sat with me. We bonded over how strange middle school was and we started hanging out after school, once we discovered we lived in the same neighborhood. It was the first time I felt welcome. It was the first time I felt that maybe living in the United States wouldn't be so bad.
It's been almost two decades since I sat with Molly at a lunch table, but I still find myself telling that story often.
Although Molly and I bonded over cookies and middle school stories, we both had crazy things happening in our lives during that season. During the first year I lived in Florida, my neighbor committed suicide, 9/11 happened in New York, and my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Molly's friendship and school became my safe place. The only four walls that gave me stability was the predictability of homework assignments, seating arrangements, and cookies. Everything else in my life was on a string.
When I look back at my rough beginning, my confusing middle, and my T.B.D. future, I wonder whether people ever think Well, she's a walking miracle! I am, but I can't take the credit. So much of my heart was restored when I surrendered all my "crazy" to the only person willing to take it, Jesus. When I first started to hear about an all loving God, I was intrigued, but not hopeful. Through Jesus, I knew that love was real and tangible for anyone who was willing to accept it.
I'm still trying to figure out so much, but over the past decade of choosing Jesus, I have found that he is all those things the Bible says he is: faithful, true, and life giving.