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.