I have to say that the sibling bond stands out during moments of stress and fear. The bickering, the competing, the tattling and the noise gives way to gentle encouragement in these times. I watched my daughter face her on again off again fear of the ocean. Re-acclimating to the fun and surprise of crashing waves on the shoreline is a distant memory, as today the waves seem bigger and scarier. My son takes his sister’s hand and talks her through the fear, the same fear he felt moments ago when faced the same ocean.
I remember the first time I was invited to a college celebration hosted by The Center of Mexican American Affairs program. The event was a Tardeada, an afternoon party, complete with live music, mariachis, and wood instruments. But what I remember most were platters and platters of fresh fruits. It was as if someone had put a filter over my eyes: the strawberries were swollen and flaming red with a dazzling shine. The pineapple was cut with precision and piled like a mountain of gold nuggets. The tables were covered in white linen cloth that made the colors pop like a canvas. Though distracted by the food, I found myself choked up: why was I so overcome with emotion? The food was for me.
This display was a startling contrast to my usual dinner table—covered with plastic doilies protected under an oversized clear plastic table cloth. Fruit was found in my refrigerator as remnants of old dehydrated grapes, overripe bananas, and bruised Red Delicious apples. I had always hated apples. I didn’t understand the lure, all I ever tasted was a bitter skin with a hint of pesticides, there was no crunch like the fruit label read, instead it was a mealy soft flesh with hidden brown spots. To avoid biting into the “bad part” proved to be too time-consuming to even bother.
I discovered the crunchy sweetness of an apple in my 20s when I tried something other than the Red Delicious assigned to my tray in school the cafeteria.I have always been a finicky eater. I attribute it to having been served food that went against my visual aesthetic and the texture on my tongue (slimy eggs).
So, what if I was so used to the grainy, mealy apple that I can’t truly enjoy a crisp tangy Honeycrisp apple without remembering what I used to eat?
Today I find myself struggling living among the wealthy, acting as if this life is familiar to me, as if I know intuitively how to be in an environment that is reserved for the affluent. The truth is, I am happy to be here, happy to feel safe, happy not to be looking over my shoulder. But to be here has requirements and prerequisites I am not sure I can meet.
How do I live here in the plush green gardens, among houses that employ staff? How do I sit next to famous athletes, financial whizzes, scientific geniuses, brilliant writers, accomplished musicians, and entertainment legends? The answer is that I live on someone else’s dime.
The shame cripples me.
If I were a lawyer, I could charge for every phone call in fifteen-minute increments, serving someone who needed legal help. If I were a therapist, I could charge for the time I am on the phone consoling a parent who is struggling with their child or a wife who is in conflict with her ex-husband. If I were a coach, I could charge parents for the encouragement, self-esteem building and skills I teach on the football field and basketball court. If I were a writer, I would get compensated for every thought that made it to paper, every word, every line, and every page.
The truth is that I am profoundly efficient at each of these roles; I can’t imagine quitting any of these positions. This is who I am and what I do. How do I place a monetary value on being me, Angelica Victoria Hernandez, Ph.D.?
P.S. I need a job, Curriculum Vitae and references available upon request.
My fascination with tattoos lasted about an hour after I got mine. I raced over to the sink and tried to wash it off, thinking that the ink couldn’t have settled in yet. As I scrubbed my finger in hopes of washing it off, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. “My mom is going to kill me, she will never talk to me again.” My stomach twisted and turned as I tried to find a solution to my impulsive mistake. Band-Aids to the rescue, I raided my friend’s medicine cabinet. I happily wrapped the bandage around my finger with a sigh of relief. How long can I wear a bandage before my mom or brother asks, “What happened to your finger?” I needed a better cover…a ring…that would do the trick. So, I kindly asked my friend who had a high school ring if I could borrow it, he said, “Yes.” I wore that for a year or so before I had to give it back. I hid my tattoo since the day I got it, behind a bandage, a ring, and regret. So much for being cool and having a tattoo.
I was about 20 years old when I realized hiding it was unnecessary…it was my scar of ADOLESCENCE and I had to accept it. I had investigated getting it removed many times but lacked the finances to do so.
When I started teaching at Crossroads School, I shared with my students a life lesson about making choices and the regret I had about the tattoo. Well, the life lesson came back to me. One of my students remembered the story and took it upon himself to share it with his peers and parents. At the end of the school year, I was given an envelope with money for laser tattoo removal and a kind note. I was blown away by his insight and empathic nature. I was reminded once again, DON’T UNDERESTIMATE A KID! The life lesson was mine.