Excerpted from Finding Your Force, Chapter 10
New York City, July 18, 2002
After 9/11 I decided two things 1) I am a writer and New York is where I need to be to make my dreams happen and 2) If I’m going to die there is no other city in the world I’d rather live in than the one I was born in. I had a plan. I had saved all the money necessary for my move. I had many connections in media. There was a job waiting for me in New York City, and I had found the perfect elementary school for you on the upper west side. Everything was moving so smoothly… then BAM my perfect little plan got all fucked up when I got myself into that financial mess in Miami. Everything I had saved not to mention the money I needed to borrow was used to get me out of that mess.
I was broke and too embarrassed to tell my family what I was going through. As far as everyone was concerned all was good in my world. I cried silently in the shower everyday. When the executive from HR called me about my next steps… I wasn’t kidding. I pushed past my tears and told her I was still moving forward with my plans. I was still going to NYC. The plan was only altered. Actually, I no longer had a plan we were winging it and I tried like hell to keep it from you and pretended that all was good. No cash, no job, no phat apartment in Harlem. It was time to go… my family was still so proud of me… I left on your Tia Fabiana’s birthday. I was like fuck it I gotta do this! New York City here we come. I left you in Florida for the summer so that I could get things in order.
I remember feeling good when I arrived in NJ because I knew I was finally one state away from HOME! Once I got passed all the traffic…my mind kept going back to what happened in Florida I carried this overwhelming feeling of failure. Disappointment in myself – I allowed a mistake I made in Florida to define me… I was in a self-imprisonment – a self-torture – – I made a mistake and just kept punishing myself. But I had to push it out when I arrived to New York… GAME FACE ON!!!
When I arrived to NYC I had about $100 bucks in my pocket, a carton of cigarettes, suspended license, and my vehicle was uninsured. I was living off of soda and parliaments. I lost forty pounds. I punished myself for much too long. I allowed myself to be treated like shit by employers when I arrived to NYC and the men let’s not forget them… I believed I deserved to be treated like crap. I believed that I was crap. I was feeling so down. I was groveling. I needed every crap job I got. In my first week in NYC I sent out about 70 resumes. I registered at every temp agency in the city. I was hungry and not just because I was hungry for a job.
In August I mailed you a post card of the New York City skyline with an ocean liner cruising down the Hudson River:
My beautiful daughter, I can’t wait to see you. This is our new home. And it will be everything we ever hoped for. We will be sooo happy because we are together. We have so much to do. We are going to have so much fun. I will show you where your “new” school is. You will see and play with your cousins. It’s going to great. I will see you Sunday. Be a good girl. Say your prayers—especially on the plane. I love you. Mommy xxoo
After only being in NYC two weeks I started a temp gig at Tiffany’s (thank you creator). However, don’t get excited. Yes it’s the Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue, which for some folks might sound fancy. But for those of you who don’t know what Tiffany’s is… it’s not all that impressive. It’s where they sell high priced shit, with the name Tiffany’s on it and where they mark something up that was made for $1.00 to $100.00. I quit my first day on the job. A woman asked me to take out the trash. I was wearing a three-piece suit. WAS SHE SERIOIUS? “No I will not do that!!! I need to call my agency!” I didn’t care how desperate I was for cash, you’re not going to demean and disrespect me! Fuck that! I called the agency and said, “Look this is not what I signed on for!” Her response was, “Oh we forgot to tell you they’re moving their offices…blah…blah…blah. Can you just pitch in we’ll find you something else.” My response to her was, “NO…I’m out! If I knew I would be taking out trash I would have come in jeans and timbs and NO I won’t be back!!!”
A few days later I landed the job of a lifetime. It was the job of my dreams. It was a temp gig working for one of top magazine publishing companies in the country… in the world. “I thought I arrived YO… for real!” Amen~
New York can be a tough place. It requires a resilient mind, strong spirit, confidence, courage, and tremendous amounts of patience on the A train at rush hour. When things don’t work out we get disappointed. It seems like we try and try and try and it never seems to happen for us. It’s like we never seem to get there. Sometimes when we get to this place of defeat… we want to give up… we throw our hands up… we don’t believe we’ll ever have IT. It feels like what the fuck!!! I’ve paid my dues and still NADA, all this hard work and still nothing to show for it.
At this point we had been living in New York now for about four months and those first two months were rough. We lived with Tia under her dictatorship. You and I slept together on a twin bed in her two-bedroom apartment in Harlem. I lit candles and prayed every night. It’s funny how when shit really gets rough all of sudden we turn to God in hopes that he/she will save the day. I prayed faithfully for a job. I prayed in the morning when I woke, in the shower and, as I got dressed. I prayed before I ate. I prayed as I washed dishes. I prayed as I walked to the train. I prayed on the train. I prayed on the elevator up to my temp assignment, during the day while I worked and in their bathrooms. I prayed during dinner while I ate and at night before I put my head on my pillow. I prayed and prayed. I prayed that this new publishing job would turn into something permanent because living in NYC wasn’t cheap and I had catholic school tuition to pay.
After temping and proving myself for two months I got the job. Ache! Amen! God DID in fact answer my prayers. I was so grateful. Once I was hired the days were long. I was working most nights until 8pm. It was a busy office. I was the assistant to two executives, a Vice President, a woman who was rising fast to CEO status, and KB, Creative Director in the Corporate Sales Department (which covered 30+ magazine titles). Name any magazine!!! They probably own it. When the VP hired me one of the things she stressed was that she understood that I was a mother, but that she hoped that it wouldn’t get in the way of my job. She made it point to express to me that she never wanted to hear excuses about being late, taking days off or anything having to do with my responsibilities as a mother. Basically what I understood is… my baby better never get sick I could lose this job.
Then I got the call I had been afraid of…
That morning you told me you weren’t feeling well. We now lived in Astoria, Queens so the commute was hell. Everyday we would take the M train to the L, the L to 14th Street, walk that long ass tunnel to the number 1 train, take the 1 uptown to 72nd and I would get off the train and take you to school. Then I would get back on the number 1 train and head downtown to 42nd I had to be at work by 8:30AM. We would do the reverse to get home. Most nights we got in at like 9:00PM. This day you were taking extra long to walk to the train. I carried your book bag for you. You weren’t feeling well. You complained on and off all the way to school. I asked you if you thought you would be ok. You said yes. When we got off the train at 72nd you just looked at me and said, “Mommy, I’m going to be sick.”
“Its ok baby, go ahead and throw up right here.”
You said, “Yes. I will be fine mommy. I don’t want you to get fired for taking time off from work to take care of me.”
I couldn’t believe you said that to me. You were more worried about me being fired than how sick you were? I went to work feeling crazy GUILTY. I wasn’t at work thirty minutes when I got the call from your school.
“Ms. Santos, your daughter has a fever and has thrown up. Can you please come pick her up?”
I was afraid to approach my boss and tell her, LOOK I have to bounce… my daughter is sick I don’t care what you think… my daughter comes first. I walked into her office and informed her submissively, that I had to leave but that I would make up the time. I ran out of that office to get you. I got on the cell phone to try and get you an appointment with a doctor. I picked you up and asked you if she would be able to ride the train (we didn’t have money to take a cab to Queens). You said you would be fine. Your face was yellow… you were flushed. You were so weak. You didn’t look good. Once we arrived to queens we jumped in a cab and your head was on my lap.
I was rubbing your head, touching your hair. While watching you… I started to cry. I felt so much guilt about what I had done to us with this move to NYC. Was I being selfish? I took you away from the life you knew. I doubted myself, my ability, what I was doing here. This was just too hard and now you were sick and it was all my fault. I didn’t think I could do it. I was alone. I have aunts and uncles in New York but they didn’t live close and couldn’t take care of you because they all have jobs. You had never seen me cry like that before. I just looked at you and said, “Baby do you wanna go back to Florida? Do you wanna just leave NYC and go back to our life? This is just too hard! You could have your pool again and go swimming all the time. You would have your abuelo and abuela, your Tia Josie, Tia Fabiana and Tio Fabin… do you wanna just go home?”
You just looked up at me with those beautiful eyes and said, “NO MOMMY!!! This is your dream. I don’t want to leave. You came here to be a writer. You can do this!”
Peace, light and LOVE~