Friday, March 3, 2017

Blessed

* Disclaimer: Definitely the most random (unstructured) blog post yet.
Hey loves, I know I have been MIA lately, which has been do to several reasons, the biggest being school. These past two months have definitely been one hell of a ride, not only have I been faced with difficulties in my academics, but I also have faced difficulties in learning to fully embrace and love myself (something that I thought I conquered last year). Nonetheless, I remain grateful (I mean how could I not when I am currently writing this in a beautiful library, surrounding by such brilliant minds, at the number one public university in the world). When things get rough at school and when I feel stress taking over me I give myself time to reflect and think about why I am here. I truly belong here. I have so much passion and so much to contribute that I must stop doubting myself. My goal if anything is to take my education as seriously as possible, while still setting enough time to have fun and relax. I want my parents to be proud of me, but most importantly I want to look back at these four years at CAL and be able to say that I did all the things I set out to do.  
What else have I been up to these past two months..you may ask? Well, a lot of things. I was part of a wonderful production called the Vagina Monologues where I got to meet women who were so exquisite and so trusting. These women not only taught me just how powerful a women could be, but they also taught me about the power of loving yourself. I think one of my proudest moments of these past two months was me coming out, and receiving the love and support from my friends. That was the best feeling. Furthermore, the show was such a success. It was beautiful to watch the audience’s reactions when they learned about these issues surrounding women. Although the show may have been stressful, with rehearsals and all, it was definitely worth it because I gained 30+ friends who I know will be there to guide me through the rest of my years here.
I am also in the process of apartment hunting which is pretty damn scary yet exciting. Like wow...I am going to live “on my own” next year, which to me entails being an adult...and like...I am a baby. I mean people have always considered me to be very independent and mature, in fact at least once a day someone tells me “Wow, you are a freshman I thought you were an upperclassmen by the way you carry yourself.” I still don’t really know what they mean but I guess it’s a compliment lol. Anyways...I am very excited to have an apartment next year and to be sharing it was such amazing people. I am ready to decorate my room all cute and shit and I am ready to have baking parties and wine wednesdays. But I must confess, I will miss my dorm room and my current roomies a lot next year (If my roomies are reading this, I love you both).
(Sidenote: My mind is all scatterbrained, so sorry if this post is very random lol. I am currently writing this while listening to Ed Sheeran’s new album, which entails me half focusing on writing half crying at Ed’s angelic voice).
These past two months I have also met some amazing people. In fact, just by being in their presence makes me so damn happy. I may not be the best at opening up to certain people and I sure as hell have issues with telling people I love them, but please just know that I do love you all and I am always here for you.
What I wish to get across through this post is just how grateful I am feeling. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were for all the sacrifices my parents have made in order for me to receive all the opportunities they were never given. So I end this “welcome back” post with the essay that got me into CAL and has allowed me to experience the feeling of getting drunk on a Tuesday night because why the fuck not, the feeling of receiving my first midterm and getting an ‘A’, the feeling of having a crappy ass day but then being able to cuddle up with my roomies, and much much more <3
White Van

    Our family car is a white, beat-up van with a crooked “DJ Tony Silva” sticker on the back, which my dad swears he meant to put on that way. It is a total eyesore. It’s also as big as a tank, which undoubtedly intimidates all those cute new Mini Coopers trying to share the road with it. Though it is quite large, it somehow still feels claustrophobic inside. You would think the solution is to open the windows, but they are old and only open a crack. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the passenger side door which only opens from the inside, meaning you have to get in through the driver’s side, lean your whole body over to lift the latch, and practically kick the door open. Yet despite all this, whenever my dad brings up getting rid of it, there is always a resounding, “NO!”

    Our van may be a wreck, but it houses fond memories, many of which took place while driving down to Disneyland. It may not be an upscale trip to Cancun or New York, but to us, it is the happiest place on earth. Even the year our van broke down while climbing “the grapevine” was unforgettable. My dad set up his laptop so we could watch movies while he got the van up and running again. That was the closest experience to a car DVD player we ever had!

    I can well imagine our van has been the source of laughter for many. Even so, I love it. It represents my family’s values. Instead of investing in a new car or a better vacation, my parents chose to invest in my education. The van is a constant reminder of the sacrifices they’ve made to provide me with endless opportunities, and I wish to one day repay them for all they’ve done. I hope to start by adding a University of California seal alongside my dad’s sticker before piling into the van and heading out to what I anticipate will be my happiest place on earth for the following four years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Coming Out

DISCLAIMER: If you are a homophobe, this is not for you! Thanks.
“I hate God, I don’t know why he would make me a girl,” says my seven year old cousin, Isabella. I am not exaggerating when I say, Izzy is the most intelligent and brave seven year old I have ever had the privilege of knowing. When I talk to her, it is as if I am talking to an educated adult. As young as she may be, she has the gift of being not only a great listener, but also the gift of understanding complex concepts that even I struggle with comprehending. Furthermore, when I ask her a question, she doesn’t respond with a monosyllabic answer like most seven year olds do, rather she responds with an answer that leads to an open ended conversation. She also uses words and phrases that I have just begun to master! Moreover, her intelligence brings about her sassiness. She is such a character!
Isabella is from my dad’s side of the family, which is much smaller than my mother’s side. My dad only has one sibling, a sister named Liza, who is the mother of Isabella. My tia Liza has fair skin and Isabella’s father is a white man; therefore, Isabella is fair skin with blonde hair and blue eyes … nothing like her primas (cousins). When she was born she had “silver” eyes and light blond hair, she was (and still is) a beauty. Around her toddler years, her hair grew out to be perfect little curls. In fact, there is a picture of her that I have on my refrigerator with her “goldilock curls” in cute little pigtails. When she was around three years old, she began wearing more “masculine” clothing, wanting to only shop in the boy section at stores. She sure loved her Marvel t-shirts, and her Star Wars jackets. At around five years old she cut her own hair, giving herself a bob cut with slanted bangs. Shortly after, my tia took her to get her “Elvis Presley” haircut she had been asking for. It was such a cute cut, that definitely fit her personality! Furthermore, in February of 2015, Isabella had her baptism. Her mom sent me a picture of the shoes that Izzy chose for herself: sparkly silver flats with a purple bow. That was quite a surprise! But when we entered the chapel and I first saw Izzy I understood why she chose those shoes … it was because they matched her silver tux and purple bow tie! She looked so spiffy!
Last year Isabella entered a new, private school where her class size was rather small. She began Kindergarten with her “best friend” from preschool. However, that friend of hers began to torment her throughout the school year, causing others to bully her because of her “tomboy” appearance. My sister said that one day she was reading “Pete the Cat” to Isabella. (If you are unfamiliar with these stories, they are about a cat that stays positive despite the fact that he is “different” from others.) Thus, after my sister finished reading the book, Izzy told my sister that it wasn’t okay for him to be different. She said this because at school, through the bullying, Izzy was learning that it wasn’t in fact okay for her to be “different.” She later said, “I hate God, why would he make me a girl.” When my sister told me this, it hit me like a ton of bricks, because at that point in Izzy’s life she truly hated God. She couldn’t understand why he would make her a girl when she had always identified herself as a boy. I began thinking, “Why would God do that? It’s going to bring about not only external, but also internal conflict that no child should go through. However, I am grateful that Izzy has been raised around a family that accepts her for who she is. My grandma, despite being a dedicated Catholic, has supported Izzy’s genderqueer identity.
This pass Monday, my tia told me that two months ago Izzy saw a movie where two womxn were kissing. Initially, Izzy said, “That’s so gross!” Her mother explained to her the concept of various sexual orientations, saying “It’s not gross Izzy, you can love whoever you choose to love, be it a boy or a girl.” Thus, on Monday morning Izzy went up to her mother and said, “Mom, do you remember that movie where two girls were kissing? Well, I think that was pretty cool.” That evening as I was helping Izzy with her homework, I brought up what she had said to her mom, and I told her that I thought it was pretty cool too. She responded with, “Yah I know right! I’m already planning to date my friend in 8th grade (mind you she’s currently a first grader) and then we can get married and then I’ll become a mechanic!” All I could say was “Wow.” The fact that Isabella is so sure of herself at seven years old is so beautiful to me. She’s smart enough to understand that she’s going to go through “hell and back” for being “different.” But I don’t worry too much for her because 1. She has a supportive family 2. I believe that when she grows older she will be instilled with more confidence 3. She is and always has been a tough cookie.

It’s crazy and yet amazing to say how much Izzy (despite being seven years old) has impacted my life and my way of thinking. She has taught me to embrace who I am in spite of those who will not “accept” me. So here it goes …  I am bisexual. Yayyy! If you are uncomfortable with that, well… you gotta live with it. Until next time.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

South City, My City

“If only I had a dollar for every time I had to explain that South San Francisco is a city South of San Francisco…”
I moved to South City in 03’ because my parents wanted my sister and I to live in a big house with a nice yard where we could go out and play. The house that I live in now was once my grandparents and before that it was my tia’s. As I have mentioned in a previous post, this house was built by my mami’s tio who was a mere five feet. Thus, this house is fit just for my family, since we are all pequeños (short). This house holds countless memories, as each room has a different “purpose.” For instance, the kitchen is where my mami makes her famous food, such as her mouthwatering sopes. It is also where friends and family are welcome over to eat. The living room is where we host Christmas Eve each year, and when I was younger it was where my cousins and I would dress up and put on “shows” for our family. The dining room is where we have lit dozens of candles for birthdays and where my family and I have tried to sing Las Mananitas on key. The backyard is where my cousin and I would make mud pies for hours and where we tried to “perfect” our double dutching skills. Lastly, during the summer, the front yard is where I would play in the sprinklers and where there would always be a lemonade stand set.
As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate my home and my city more than I used to. For instance, I am lucky to have a majority of my family live in close proximity to me; the farthest being my lita (grandma) in Daly City and the closest being my cousins who live just around the corner from me. Not only does my family live in close proximity to me, but so does my best friend. As a matter of fact, she’s my neighbor! We met at Head Start, our preschool, and have been friends ever since! Who else is fortunate enough to say that their neighbor is their best friend? Cause let me tell you, that shit is awesome. For instance, when I want to “escape” my household all I need to do is walk across the street!
Another aspect that I love about South City is that I consider it to be a primarily working class community. I feel like most of us who live in South City struggle everyday to make ends meet; nonetheless, we are willing to lend a hand to those in need. Thus, I feel like South City truly is one large community … we even have our own lingo. For example, if you’re from SSF you better know what OP stands for … (Orange Park). South City also has the bombest food! For me personally these are some of the best places to get yummy food:
  1. La Tapatia located on Grand Avenue: Their carnitas and frijoles are to die for!!
  2. Little Lucca Sandwich Shop located on El Camino Real: This place is teeny tiny (hence the name), but the sandwiches are not!
  3. Raymond’s Sourdough Bread located on Spruce Avenue: Legit planning to work there over the summer just so I can get free bread. It is that good.
  4. Panaderia Hernandez located on Grand Avenue: “Don’t be self conchas.” Yo, their pan dulce smells like heaven on earth.
Furthermore, I might be a bit biased when I say … Grand Avenue is way better than Burlingame Avenue (or any other downtown for that matter). I mean sure Burlingame Avenue has Tpumps and overpriced restaurants and stores, but what it doesn’t have is Grand Avenue’s authentic restaurants and quality thrift stores. I’m not trying to “diss” Burlingame Avenue, but … I mean … yah … we’re better. Also, Sign Hill “shits on” other city’s scenic view because 1. It is a nice, short hike up 2. If you bring cardboard you can slide down the letters 3. At night, the view is breathtaking. 10/10 I would recommend going up there, it’s a chill environment to go with friends and or a reflective environment when needing some alone time.

I want to end this by saying how blessed I am to have been raised in South City. Not only has it caused me to become “physically and emotionally” closer to my family, but it has also led me to become the hardworking womxn I am today. I am most definitely proud to say I am from South City.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Power to the People

“To be honest Anissa, I thought you were half black,” a floormate of mine confessed to me as I was brushing my teeth before bed. I asked her why she assumed such a thing considering I don’t have any black physical features (whatever that should mean). She responded with, “It’s because you’re always talking about black social issues ... and well ... your pajama shirt has a picture of the Selma march.” After my initial reaction of laughter, I understood where she was coming from since I am a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter Movement and I am engaged in such organizations as “Sojourn to the Past,” an immersion program that takes high school students along the path of the Civil Rights Movement. During my junior year of high school, Jeff Steinberg, the director of Sojourn to the Past, came to present the trip to my class. After hearing about this trip, where I’d have the privilege of traveling to Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas to meet Civil Rights leaders and go to several key locations of the movement, I knew I had to go on this trip. After school that day I asked my mama if I could attend the trip, promising her that I would raise the money, but since it cost well over our financial ability ($2500) she had to say no. I was devastated. Therefore, I went “behind my parents back” by asking my high school’s activities director for financial assistance. My high school ended up giving me $1250! I think the reason I was offered so much help was because they could see how eager I was to go on this trip. In the end, I wrote a letter and sent it out to family and friends asking for donations … I ended up only paying $200 for the trip! To this day, I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that!
Anyways …
Sojourn to the Past was a life-changing trip that has caused me to be who I am today: An activist and supporter of the Black Lives Matter Movement who believes in getting in “good trouble” and using nonviolent tactics to end violence. On the trip, I met my favorite man in the world: Congressman John Lewis. He was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, as he was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was a leader of the Selma march which helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was a part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (man oh man how I love that man … if you haven’t watched the movie Selma what are you doing?? But in all seriousness, take the time to watch it). On the trip, I also got to meet leaders of the Children March, Simeon Wright (cousin of Emmett Till), Medgar Evers's wife and children (Medgar Evers was assassinated by members of the White Citizen’s Council because he fought to enact social justice and voting rights), Minnijean Brown and Elizabeth Eckford (two courageous members of the Little Rock Nine who were the first to segregate an all white high school), and the sister of Denise McNair (who was assassinated in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in 1963).  
I can talk for hours about the Civil Rights Movement … I am so passionate about it … just by writing this and remembering all the things that I have learned about the movement has got my heart beating! So if you’re interested in the Civil Rights Movement or need to write a paper about anyone involved in the movement, feel free to hmu! In fact, I helped my roommate write her final term paper for her Afro class this semester because … well… I know my shit!
Anyways …

I can already envision my mama’s grimace when I tell her that I’m considering minoring in African American studies and or Criminology. She has never fully supported my passion for helping to solve social issues affecting our black community because I know she’s thinking, “Those aren’t your kind.” But what does that mean? Black men and women might not “look like me” but that doesn’t mean I don’t consider them to be my brothers and sisters. Afterall, as Congressman John Lewis once said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” I believe that justice will prevail, but we must bind together and fight for our fellow brothers and sisters. 
Love yall. Attached is my essay that fortunately got me into CAL, it is titled "Flutterfly" and I hope you enjoy it. 
Despite it being a day when my heart has grown heavier and heavier with the things that I’ve seen, the things that I’ve heard, and the things that I’ve been forced to acknowledge, I am surprised to feel the familiar flutter. As I hold hands with my newfound family of Sojourners around the Civil Rights Memorial, my first inclination is to nip the feeling because it doesn’t seem appropriate at this time. Although I feel drained and disappointed with the vivid history we retraced throughout the day, I feel a flutter of excitement.


My first memory of fluttering was when I was four years old. It was a rainy day, and I noticed some ants huddled under a leaf. I thought it was unfair that the ants had no home so I became inundated with visions of myself building each ant a stable hut to outwit the rain. I became so lost in this vision of catering to the ants that I didn’t notice when my hands began to move rapidly until my mom interrupted my daydream mid flap. According to my parents, flapping my hands, or what they affectionately called fluttering, was a big part of my childhood. I can’t say I remember how often it occurred and even the hand flapping is a blur, but what I do remember is the flutter within and the sense of euphoria that came with it. A simple flutter evoked images and ideas into my mind, bringing a moment of clarity as well as a sense of wonder. My parents never let on that they were concerned, even nicknaming me their “flutterfly”, but I now know that they were. I was seen by doctors, psychologists, and neurologists, but because I continued to meet all developmental and social goals, it was concluded that I was not on the spectrum and that more than likely it would all disappear with time. They were both right and wrong. Over time, I no longer felt the need to flap my hands, but the flutter was mine to keep.


In the chill of the night with no one around except my hundred and fifty fellow Sojourners, the flutter is still present as our hands intertwine and we begin to sing in unison, “Darlin’, here in our hearts, we do believe, we shall overcome someday.” Our individual voices sound soft and subtle, but together we are so powerful that I am transported to another place and time and to memories not of my own, but of children who watched their fathers beaten to death for peacefully protesting their right to be served in local diners, and of educated black women who were denied the right to vote for being unable to calculate the “correct” number of bubbles in a bar of soap. At this very moment, I am surrounded by a hundred and fifty souls who although have different backgrounds, have all faced individual struggles and discrimination. I am hand in hand with future members of Congress, teachers, lawyers, and social workers who want nothing more than to carry out the sense of unity brought on by singing the Civil Rights anthem. I anticipate going home to tell not only my family and friends about what I learned on this trip, but also to people I don’t know, so we can have a conversation about how this history directly connects to our present societal struggles. I then see myself as an intern at Sojourn to the Past and a grassroots activist in college taking part in making people realize that despite their age, gender, or background they too can make a change in their community. As we begin to sway to the music, it is clear that the flutter I’m feeling tonight is different in its purpose and confidence, for this time my hands are steady because they are in the hands of the future.



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fake Love

“Anissa por que no tienes novio,” (Anissa why don’t you have a boyfriend?) my lita (grandmother) asks. Tell me why I get asked this question all the damn time and I never know how to respond because although I grew up surrounded by my parent’s authentic love, I have also grown up witnessing some toxic relationships. Within my family, there has been physically and verbally abusive husbands, husbands in prison, husbands who are unfaithful, boyfriends who are cheaters, boyfriends who have left at the first sign of commitment, etc etc. Although this is my blog and I would like to write everything down so that I may feel some control over these problems, I know that it is not my right to talk about other people’s difficulties, but just be aware that these difficulties are ever-present.
Unfortunately, as I grew up surrounded by men who were unfaithful, I began to normalize the action of cheating and internalize the misconception that women must be obedient to men (Let me just tell you … I DO NOT believe that now). But as I grew older and surrounded myself with powerful, independent women I learned that 1. I wanted to be an independent women 2. I shouldn’t feel embarrassed to defend my values 3. Not all men are bad. After this realization, I began dating. Let’s keep this short and simple: I “dated” this guy .. he lied to me .. I forgave him .. we broke up .. two weeks after the break up he had a new girlfriend. Great. Wow. What a slap in the face. So much for the whole dating thing. Now I was back to where I started: mistrusting boys. But that was a few years ago … a lot has changed since then. For instance, instead of wanting to be an independent woman, I am one.
I have to admit, I still have trust issues in any relationship, due to the fact that I have experienced several people leave my life because ... well … they were cowards (still shoutout out to them for leaving because you have only made me stronger). However, I have come to terms with the fact that some boys can be deceiving in their intentions, but not all … and that is an important distinction. So thank you to all the men who have chosen to stay in my life. Most importantly, thank you to my papi for not only being the best damn father/husband there is, but for also being an all around great guy and teaching me to be patient for love … afterall I’m only 18! Till next time. Love yall.

Authentic Love

For those who know my parents, they know that they are what some people call “relationship goals.” Before delving into their story together, I must first share a bit about my mami (pronounced mommy). My mami is the strongest woman I have ever known. She has gone through so much pain and humiliation, which has caused her to be the resilient and determined woman she is today. When my mami was a little girl she was fat, defined as “having a large amount of excess flesh.” During her younger years, my mami exceedingly surpassed that of a healthy weight. When I was little, I asked my mother why I had never seen pictures of her when she was a little girl. She responded with, “Well, I destroyed all the pictures of me.” As I was merely 7 or 8 eight years old, I didn’t quite understand why she would do such a thing. That is when she finally shared her story …
Mija, when I was a child I was heavily overweight. In fact, your lito (grandfather) would have his friends come over to watch me eat. He would bet his friends that I could eat 10-15 McChickens on my own. He treated me as if I was a mere act, a form of entertainment. This brought me to become psychologically damaged. In middle school, I was fatally bullied. My nickname was applecheeks … even to this day I am embarrassed by my fat cheeks, that is why I rarely smile with my teeth. Anyways, I remember one day in junior high I had to rush home to babysit your tia (aunt); therefore, I went out the front door of the school, instead of the back .. like I normally would do to avoid the tormentors. The instant I stepped out the front gate, I was met with several bullies with rocks in hand. They began to chant things like, “Oh applecheeks you know you’re not welcome on this side of campus” or “applecheeks there’s no one to protect you.”
That day mija, I was sure I was going to die.
The bullies began to chase me home, which was only a few blocks away, but for me (the fat kid) it seemed like miles away. I ran as fast as I could as the bullies threw rocks at me. I could barely see, as I was blinded by tears and sweat (At this point in my mami’s storytelling she began to cry, something I had never before witnessed). Flashforward to the end of junior high, I made a promise to myself that I would lose the weight, be it in a healthy way or not. I called my tia and begged her to take me in for the summer because I knew that she would help me lose the weight. I begged her not to tell your lita (grandmother) what my plan was: to lose over __ pounds over the summer (I don’t know what the exact number of pounds was, that is why I left it blank, but just know it was a hell of a lot!). So, I went to live in another part of LA for the summer. Your tia made me exercise for the majority of my stay, only feeding me carrots, celery, granola bars, etc etc. It was an extremely unhealthy way to lose weight, but I lost it. I remember coming back home, and your grandmother was so angry she was brought to tears. I was paler than ever, but in my mind pale was okay because it meant I was skinny. Flashforward to my first day of high school, a day to remember. I walked in and all I could hear were people whispering, “Wow, that’s Mary she looks hot!” I sat in my first class and there was your father. I had known your papi a bit in middle school, he had always treated me with respect and never brought up my weight. Thus, I knew when your papi asked me out on a date he was being genuine when he said he liked me for me.”
Hence, my parents were highschool sweethearts. They began dating their freshman year, separated for a year, got back together their junior year, and have been together ever since. The year that they “separated” (their sophomore year) my dad told my tia I don’t care if we’re separated for years, I will wait. She is the one I want.” The fact that he was so confident in their love at 16 years old … shit, if that’s not beautiful I don’t know what is. Now, in present day, (and I mean like right this second as I sit in a cafe in SSF with my parents across from me) I appreciate and see my parent’s love flourish. Afterall, they have been best friends since they were thirteen. I love witnessing their inside jokes, and when they bicker but then make up a minute later. I also love how now that my sister and I are older, they are doing more things for themselves. For example, right now they are busy planning a mini vacation for just them two. Although, I have to admit I’m a bit jealous they won't be taking me, (lol) I am happy that they will have time alone. They deserve it. 
Well … I have decided to make this post a two parter because this is getting too long (lol .. again). See you in my next post where I will explain why, despite growing up around my parent’s love, I still have some serious “trust issues” (I mean who doesn’t). Love ya’ll.  


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

For you

I hear the phone, “ringing off the hook,” a saying that I hear a lot in my household as their are always people calling us (we’re just that popular). I run to go catch the phone, but it goes to voicemail. I hear through the intercom my mom’s worried and shaky voice.
“Anissa, please pick up, pleaseeee.”
I pick up the phone.
She tells me that as she was driving to my old high school for my sister’s awards night, she saw that there was an immense fire in San Bruno. My mama was worried that our friends might be in trouble because the fire looked to be in close proximity to their home. At this point I ran to my porch (located in the back of my house) and I saw houses and trees engulfed in a ball of fire. I scurried downstairs to find my binoculars, in order to get a better look at the fire. Once I got back outside the fire had doubled in size. Finally, my parents returned from their quick “trip” to my sister’s awards night (since they never made it there). My mama comes in saying, “I’ve called Jackie’s cell phone several times and she won’t pick up, I’m going to call other members of her family.” About ten minutes later, she got a hold of Jackie’s oldest daughter, Gabi, and explained to her that their was a fire close to their home and that her mother wasn't answering her phone. My mom didn’t want to worry Gabi as she was at tennis practice, but she couldn’t help but panic. I then ran up to my parent’s bedroom (located in the front of my house) because I wanted to be as far away from the view of the fire as possible. While in their room, something hit me. It felt like a ton of bricks. It felt like I had just swallowed something really heavy and it sat in the pit of my stomach. I proceeded to fall to the floor. I cried like I had never done before. In that instant, I knew my best friend, Janessa, and her mother, Jackie, were gone.
That night I was sent to bed early because 1. My parent’s were trying to shelter me from reality 2. It was my 13th birthday the next morning. However, I could still hear my parents and sister watching the news, awaiting the list of the victim's names. Surprisingly, that night I remember sleeping. I had convinced myself that everything was going to be all right, afterall I had seen Janessa two days before …
“Happy 13th Birthday, mija!” I had almost forgotten it was my birthday. That day (a friday) I went to school and then went to play mini golf with some of my closest friends. I hadn’t brought up the fire to my friends because 1. I was trying to shelter myself from reality 2. It was my 13th birthday and I wanted to enjoy it … So much for enjoying it though. I mean how could I when I was so damn worried the whole day. I just wanted answers.
The next morning my mom came into my room and told me to meet her in the playroom (a room in my house that has board games). I sat on the couch awaiting the truth. I wasn’t nervous, in fact, I was calm. I think back now, and the reason I was so calm was because I had known the truth the whole time: My best friend and her loving mother (whom was my mom’s best friend) did not survive the tragic fire.
But I write today not out of sadness, rather out of love. There is sooo much I want to share and get off my chest … thus this is a warning that the rest of this post might be all jumbled and represent my “scattered brain.” This incident, be it tragic, has led me to who I am today. 1. A believer of God 2. A confident Latina who is unapologetically myself. I’ll start off by explaining #1 … how I am now a strong believer of God. The reason being, God had sent me so many signs that the fire was going to happen and he was going to take Janessa and Jackie from us. For instance, I had met Janessa through my Mexican folk dance classes when I was merely six years old. The week of the fire we were preparing for Fiestas Patrias, a performance that Janessa and I were both excited about. Thus, we had extra practices the previous week … I had seen her more often that month than ever before (So that was sign #1.) Also, the week of the fire her mother asked my dad if we could drop Janessa off at her home after a dance practice. When we dropped her off, I remember distinctly that she wouldn’t shut her front door until we fully drove off. She enthusiastically waved goodbye, and I only wish I had known that was going to be our last goodbye. As we drove off, my dad made a wrong turn and we entered the cemetery (sign #2). While stuck in the cemetery, I remember feeling a sense of heaviness (sign #3). In short, I do believe God gave me those signs in preparation for what was to come, and I thank him each day for allowing me to spend more time with Janessa during that month.
But the most important thing I have gained from September 9th, 2010 (the day of the fire) is my guardian angel. Today, I do not live my life solely for myself, rather for Janessa and all those that have had their lives cut short. During their funeral, I promised myself that I would live my life to the fullest. That means 1. To surround myself with positive people who love me for me 2. Cut ties with those that make me feel less than what I am 3. Remain selfless, but still do things for myself. This “tragedy” or what I prefer to call it, this “beautiful mess” has caused me to be grateful for everything that I have and that I have experienced … meaning I am grateful for experiencing my first love, my first heartbreak, etc etc. Because not everyone is privileged with the time to experience these things. 
I want to end this by saying: Thank you to my guardian angels for pushing me to be the best version of myself. I do it all for you.