The thing about coming out.

As someone who was undocumented for over a decade, I know a thing or two about keeping secrets.  I was afraid of letting people fully into my life, even my closest friends.  I had to compartmentalize every area of my life, and as much as I wanted to be myself with my friends, I was afraid.  I was afraid they would look at me differently, I was afraid they would reject me, I was afraid they would feel sorry for me.  

There were vacations I couldn’t take with them, not even to Puerto Rico, I was too afraid.  I would show up late or early to outings since I used my Mexican passport as I.D., and that always raised questions- why didn’t I just use my license?  I could only make up losing my license so many times.  Slowly, but surely all those secrets, all those slight modifications to daily life starting taking a toll.  It was as much an emotional toll as a physical one.  I had chronic back pain, such awful pain that I would lay on the floor for hours at a time.   I tried to live a normal life, but I had lived so many years with tiny little lies, that I didn’t even know what was really normal anymore.  I didn’t really know who ‘myself’ was.  

Slowly, I started letting people, I would have broken otherwise.  If I regret anything, is not letting my friends in sooner.  I had dinner with a dear friend, who was also my roommate in New York, last night and it felt so good to finally be able to tell her everything.  I am sure so many of my ‘quirks’ finally made sense!  I wanted to say sorry for taking so long, but she understood— real friends always do.  

I have come to realize that the most beautiful thing in life is for someone to know you, to really know you.  But before others could know me, I had to figure out who I was.  Beyond the papers I didn’t have, beyond the things I had to do to survive, beyond what I had, and what I didn’t have.  

I’ll continue to discover me, but I am so thankful that this crazy journey has taken me this far— to a place where I know me and others know me too.  

A blessing and a curse- when people believe in you.

My mom has always told me that I can accomplish everything I want, and so far I have.  I learned how to speak english at the age of 11, I went to college when the odds were completely against me. I graduated, I got an amazing job that (at the time) was super prestigious. I made associate, I made VP. I made more money than my parents ever did. I always knew what was next, and what I needed to do to get there.  

When I left Goldman everyone told me that ‘they were sure I would succeed’, my friends often tell me that if there is someone they know that can do X,Y and Z, it’s me.   These kinds of comments always made me stand up a little higher, look a little brighter, feel a little prouder, boast a a little.  But, it also made me a lot more afraid to fail.  If I failed, it wasn’t just me that would be disappointed, it would be everyone that was sure I wouldn’t. Even though I made the leap and left my job, I have been so afraid, still am. But I have realized that my biggest fear was not failure, or running out of money— It was that people might see me as a failure.  

The thing is, I don’t think I failed very much because I didn’t take enough risk.  I am very proud of what I have accomplished so far in life.  It took a lot of hard work, and literally, sweat and tears.  I am not discounting that, but all those accomplishments happened inside a system that tells you exactly what needs to be done. 

Friends, I love you for believing in me— You have been my backbone and the reason why I have gotten through many rough moments. But today, I tell you that I might fail. That I might fall flat on my face. That I might need to crash on your couch if my piggy bank runs out.  That for the first time in my life, I might not achieve success in the way that the world defines it.  Maybe, I won’t even achieve success in the way I define it.  But whatever happens next, I am off to try and get to the other side of the jungle without a compass.  Because there is no compass, or map or rules here.