The desire to survive and fight has enabled me to overcome many a challenge. From childhood trauma to navigating immigration as a minor, by myself and from citizenship to climbing the corporate ladder in America, I have spent my life being a chameleon. From the places I’ve lived to the roles I have played, fitting in has been something that I mastered very early in life. This explains two things: first, it has been a struggle to maintain my “true self” and second that over the years I have had to fight to claim, reclaim, regain my identity over and over again.
For a long time, I did not know what it was like to fully be myself. Sure, I have many labels that helped me fill that gap…mother, wife, immigrant, woman, person of color, lesbian, project manager, author, entrepreneur, but deep down what I truly am is a survivor and a fighter. Many people take those labels to exemplify strength, courage and perseverance and while those are undoubtedly true, beneath the surface also lies exhaustion, and forgetting to breathe. Ironically, I am grateful to COVID-19 for giving me that opportunity.
In times such as these where there is an overabundance of darkness and pain in the world, relief comes in the most unexpected places–a well intentioned postcard, or a strong call to action coming to fruition. Perhaps an unexpected conversation across the street or a video chat with a dear friend whose face you started to forget. Relief also comes from the personal development that we are all faced with and are almost forced to complete in this strange and confusing time. Without work commutes and swim meets, sports and theater, we are forced to spend time with ourselves and learn how to be comfortable with discomfort. The hustle and bustle of the daily grind has silenced many of our thoughts and feelings, and numbed us in a way that allowed us to carry on without processing what it is that really makes us who we are. The time that we now have available; the same time that we begged for before, almost seems forced upon us as a punishment that eventually brings catharsis.
For me, the beginning of quarantine brought with it chaos and uncertainty but also the freedom to not hold myself to the same standards that kept me in the stage of burn out. As the days turned into weeks, I found myself relieved to just be. I was around people who have seen me at my worst, enjoyed me at my best and with whom there was no need for a façade. As I settled in to being my true self, around the clock, I took an inward look and realized that I wasn’t the person I used to be or even the person I needed to be. I saw two people–the dreamer and the survivor; fighting to co-exist, both managing to stay alive but neither able to thrive.
Life doesn’t wait. Parenthood changes you. Birthdays take a toll, and not just on the exterior. Merely existing as an immigrant, as a lesbian, as a mother and a wife, as a student, as an author, an entrepreneur, a friend…the constant fight to get one step ahead, the constant hustle to pull yourself up, the constant beat down and the constant dust off; the cyclical tirade of perseverance, leaves you exhausted and frankly isn’t enough! I realized I was tired, and I realized I had an opportunity to rest. I understood that I had a chance; a fortuitous opportunity to reform myself. Not in the image of the dreamer or the survivor, but in the image of both. A unified power, a kinder human, a louder voice, a space taker, a path creator, a pioneer, a hero, a warrior, a woman, because to be different, is to be seen.