I’ve had an emotional week.
Maybe all weeks are emotional –I wouldn’t really know, as I only get to experience life from my particular bag of skin and saline solution, held up by bones. Boy, that sounds disgusting.
Anyway… I’ve been what the cool kids call “in my feelings” lately. At least, I think that’s what they mean by being in your feelings. If by being in your feelings, it means that you go to the Catholic church down the block to bawl and to light candles to St. Therèse (Crying in Churches, Vol. 1 will be a post someday) and that you play a song that suddenly means everything to you despite having been released over 20 years ago and having charted again as a rerelease three years ago, sure.
But we never know what is going to trigger us, do we?
And my triggers have been of a nebulous quality–one that I hoped I would get to solve in a private way, like grown-ups do, with a therapist. I called to make an appointment and everything, but I never heard back.
So I guess it’s time to handle this like not-an-adult and blog about being in my feelings. Although I was horribly old, 23, when 1999 lapsed into 2000, BOY AM I A MILLENNIAL AMIRITE?
Anyway, I digress AS USUAL, and I overuse capital letters AS USUAL but bear with me. I believe my main trigger is that this week of December, I always remember my grandfather. He was only around for my first four years of life, and died in the middle of telling a joke on December 10, 1980. So, you know, a while back.
A friend of mine recently lost his father in the early hours of December 10. I guess that’s triggered some feelings, even if the loss wasn’t mine.
Today I had to go to the Colombian consulate to do some paperwork because… well, because I realize this has a point.
I didn’t pick up my Colombian ID, even though I’d gone through the trouble of doing the paperwork. I didn’t pick it up for years. I got emails letting me know that it was ready for me at the Colombian consulate. Very nice emails. Loads of them. Some, I’d open. Others, I’d absentmindedly scan before deleting them, unread.
And so, as it happens with things you neglect, when I needed my Colombian ID to vote in the past elections and ditzily tried to claim my ID with some bullshit “no I didn’t get the emails” story, my ID had long since been sent back to Colombia, to the place where unclaimed IDs go to sit and rot. Frankly, I hope they get incinerated or something, because the photo was particularly bad.
Anyway. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get to vote.
I tried not to let it bother me– not even when I understood at a surface level that this election was a very important one (they all are) and that it is important to be involved in your country’s electoral process and that voting is a privilege and so on.
But the larger truth is that there is a disconnect between me and my country of origin. It’s like a chunk of skin that I had to cut off myself, and one whose loss I am only now starting to fully feel, now that the skin is older and stretched. Or maybe it eventually just feels old and saggy and comfortable? Don’t quote me on this. Sometimes I see the spots where my two boys have required stitches, and I know that every once in a while, their scars hurt.
My scars are all on my knees. When I was a girl, back in Colombia, I wore a uniform– up until age 13, the age my older child is now. My uniform consisted of a gray skirt and white oxford shirt and a tie (mine had blue stripes– it was a British school and, much like Harry Potter’s universe, we also had four houses). I also had to wear knee-high white socks that invariably drooped and sagged and left my knees exposed.
My knees spent a lot of time with skin missing and I have a couple of old scars on my knees. Periodically, they itch.
I think I’ve drifted away from what I meant to say, yet again.
But here is the crux of what I mean to say: It took for me to sit down and watch Carlos Vives’s video for “La Tierra del Olvido” (“Land of Oblivion”) over and over – a video that plays on loop at the Colombian Consulate– to realize that I’ve never really thought about what it meant for me not just to leave my country of origin, but why I had to go –why my mother thought it was better and preferable to move to the west coast of the United States (basically, halfway around the world because that’s what it feels like when you finally get there)– and why I had to avoid owning my Colombianness for many years.
If you’ve never seen this video, it’s a re-release of a 1995 song that Carlos Vives wrote as an ode to Colombia. So I mean, you’d have to be numb inside or brain dead not to make the connection if you’re me. Here’s a link. Please, spend the next 5 minutes and 50 seconds watching the most gorgeously produced ode to this remarkable country that boasts dramatic changes in elevation and climate, has extensive shorelines in two different oceans, produces a bounty of produce and the most beautiful flowers (which are probably brightening up your home, if you bought a bunch recently), and which has some really, really, really, really, abysmally rotten people, who have made the rest of us scarred and ashamed of an otherwise incredible country.
You know who I mean. I know you know, because the second I would say, naïvely, that I came from Colombia, when I was fourteen years old, freshly arrived, never-kissed and innocent, you piled Coca-Cola cans in front of me while laughing hysterically and then you asked me if I had any drugs.
And at seventeen, and at twenty-three. And a few weeks ago. The little jokes about pot and cocaine and the sly references to Miami Vice. Yes, I got them all. No, I didn’t always think that you were serious. Yes, I know you were joking. It still hurt.
Never mind that it’s your country of origin the one that kept my smart, resourceful, audacious people in business– and now, my Mexican brothers and sisters, destroying their country in turn. But you don’t care about that, because to you, we are all lesser, brown people. Even if I have less melanin than you do. Even if you refuse to see the blonde highlights in my ash brown hair and choose to think that it’s gray hair.
I don’t compute. I “pass.” Why am I white if I’m supposed to be brown? If I’m “dark”– that ambiguous term that could just refer to my brown hair but really doesn’t? Why do I know things or speak English with barely any accent if I’m supposed to be a downtrodden refugee who doesn’t know her rights, the type whom you’re comfortable shutting off your precious country, building walls around yourself?
I wanted to deny where I was from. I wanted to forget. I wanted to excise that part of myself or just tuck it away somewhere, a fact that wasn’t so easy to accomplish when my grandmother, whose crazy brain actively refused to retain any English within itself, would strike up conversations with anyone, anywhere, and demand that I interpret the exchanges on the spot. Where are you from? What brings you here? Who are you? Why does the nice lady not speak English? A FIU GUORRR. AI ESPIK A FIU GUORR.
No, I don’t like music with accordions. How cheesy! No, I don’t know how to dance. Okay, maybe a little. I was born elsewhere: any other country where you won’t ask me why I look the way I look. Any place that’s not embarrassing. I once was even from Fresno, California– a place I managed to avoid visiting the whole time I lived in California. I’m sure you’re very lovely, Fresno: I hear great things about your almond trees. (That’s another post.)
But speaking of my smart, resourceful, audacious people: They are. We are. We are everywhere– in DC alone, I’ve met a diaspora of the most hardworking and forward-thinking people you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing. And yes, they all have that funny, singsongy accent that distinguishes us from the rest of Latin America. As my mom likes to remind me, and often, “Antioqueño no se vara.” Specifically, it’s a saying talking about people from Antioquia department –you know, where Pablo Escobar was from, because you know everything about my country since you binged “Narcos.” Right?
An Antioquian is never stuck. Never stuck in the past. Never stuck in their feelings.
We are never stuck. We move forward, carrying that fertile soil and ridiculous bounty within us, everywhere. It’s just a matter of remembering what we have inside– aside from the bones and the saline solution, that is.