From birth to the age of nine, the view that I woke up to every morning was to this glorious blue of the Caribbean Sea. Yes, there was a horizon, but I understood that the world wasn't flat and that I could leave the island and live great adventures. Then, at the end of third grade, and without warning, my mom packed our tropical dresses and my sister's and I took a flight up north to New Jersey. Rather than an ocean of blue, my view from my tenement window became urban blight. In other less positive eyes, this horizon would have been depressing and debilitating, but to my young child's imagination, it was just as beautiful and filled with potential. My childhood best friend John John and I would sit on the fourth floor fire escape right outside my bedroom window and talk about the world beyond our neighborhood, which was deemed a dysfunctional cesspool of drugs, violence and welfare dependency. However outsiders defined this block, rightly or wrongly, it was our world, and though we loved it much, we also deeply understood that there were many adventures ahead of us and it was up to us to make them happen. My mother, from Puerto Rico, and his parents, from Ecuador, brought us to America seeking a better life for themselves and their children. Therefore, living in the land of milk and honey, we knew were destined for greatness. Letting the immediate dysfunctional world- inside our homes and outside, limit us was a non issue.
I'm still trying to figure out with John John what it was that we possessed inside our little hearts and minds that allowed us to flourish despite the racism, sexism, debilitating poverty, homophobia we experienced. John, one of the most brilliant people I know, is today armed with a PHD and is school principal. I am an Emmy winning journalist, author of two books, and hundreds of newspaper, magazine articles and essays. I live in the City of my dreams, the one that I would look at adoringly from my rooftop in Jersey City and that I envisioned one day would be my home. I live the life that I always dreamed about. Not all of my life journey, which continues to manifest, has been pain free and easy breezy. Some of it has been very rocky, painful and scary. But, I carry on, like a good daughter of my mother and father. A child of a resilient island. A survivor of ancestors who were enslaved. And an indigenous people who were massacred.
Life has tested my resolve, as I am sure tested the men and women who came before me, as I am sure it tests yours. I have seen myself in precarious financial and emotional situations, not unlike most people. But, here's the thing: I am living my dharma. Are you? I've never given up on me or my dreams. Have you?
|James De La Vega|
Many of us unconsciously place limitations on our dreams, potential, future and on how we see our lives unfolding. These caps are many times self imposed. And it's not our fault. From the moment we are born, the outside world-- parents, family, friends, culture, class, neighborhood, teachers, media, religion, society -- whisper, sometimes, screams into our ears about what we can or cannot do because of our gender, color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, physical impediments, class, and so on, and so on. (It's called toxic stress.) But, here what I've learned that I want to share: all of that is noise. And it doesn't have to be. You can turn it off, tune it out. You have the control to change it.
Let yourself fly, your vision of you can soar:
Do you think that the little bird who came to greet me this morning by window as I wrote this post is flying around being scared about where his next meal is going to come from? He intuitively knows he will get his worm, or because he is an urban creature, he next hot dog. Do you think he was told how fast he can fly, how much he can soar? Nope. So imagine you and all that you can do. It's worth repeating something: a thought becomes a deed, a deed becomes an action, an action becomes a habit and habits become your destiny. If you have harmful habits, you can change them. Get help if you cannot do it by yourself.
Tap into your limitless potential:
Do you know you have natural intelligence? That you were born to win, to fly, to conquer? If not, ask yourself who lied to you? Don't let others box you into categories. When you think about it, it's their issue, not yours. And if you are your own worse critic, check that critic. It's hard work rewiring our little brains, but it can be done. Check that internal judge, again, and again. Remember, if you think you can, you will.
Fight for what is right:
The world is unfair to all of us. And there is injustice, some of it illegal, other borderline illegal, other just plain cruel. There is rule of law (in America) and how lucky am I and you are if you happen to live here or in a country that has Rule of Law. Enjoy these liberties, and fight that they remain tight. And make sure that you vote for politicians that fight for opportunities for poor and the middle class kids like John John and I. The rich and the privileged will take care of their own, lets take care of the rest. It's an election year people, get involved.
Weed out the weeds, in your brain, in your life:
Some experiences and people plant weeds, others sow seeds of goodness. Dig in, excavate it and weed out the people, experiences and harmful thoughts that keep you stuck in your potential.
It's worth contemplating how you want your life to unfold from this moment forward. It's even more important that when you do, you do not place limitations on how you want your life to blossom. And, no matter how silly you may be to think that you can be the next Oprah, Steve Jobs, Toni Morrison, Jennifer Lopez or Chris Rock, rock on! No matter your horizon--urban chaos, brilliant blue, or office cubicle --let it be yours, this life that you dream of.