Do you remember that feeling when you were around 8 years old and you were being dragged across the scorching hot phoenix desert trying to get in the US, not having eaten anything for days, and just feeling a lot of pain, anger, and confusion. Do You? Hmm, I didn’t think you’d remember. If I remember correctly you blocked much of your pre-teen years trying to erase everything that hurt, scarred, and scared you. But you know what, don’t forget it! Don’t forget the things you saw that made you cringe and cry. Don’t forget about the loneliness and the abuse. Because I can tell you that you made it through! It was not pretty, but your resilience to live paid off.
Resilience to live a better life!
Remember that. Resilience in your life will become a theme – a mantra, almost – for you to grow and develop into the man you are today.
Every kid that has immigrated into the US by any means necessary has a dream. The dream of taking all the opportunities this beautiful country has to offer and make the best of it. You were no different. You changed your name from the “girl” name this country thought you had, you learned the language, became a national scholar in Junior High, and by the end of High School, you were a 3-sport stand out student athlete with a 3.8 GPA getting accepted to various universities. All in spite of your alcoholic mother while in an abusive and low-income household.
But none of that materialized into the post high school stardom you envisioned at the time. In your senior year of high school, your mother tells you that the documents you were using to go to school and apply for universities were obtained illegally and were no good. The social security you used was not your own and was not obtained properly. She told you that you were still in the country illegally and undocumented. The university you chose to attend soon found out about your legal status and pulled your scholarship. They allowed you to stay, but as an out-of-state student and shortly there after you realized you could not afford school so you dropped out.
All you wanted to do was play soccer and get an education. A college degree was something no one in your family had ever achieved and you could just taste the opportunity to be the first. To prove the naysayers wrong! But, you handled it well. Yes, you were hurt, frustrated, angry and disappointed. But resilience would help get you back on your feet. You knew you couldn’t dwell on it because time stops for no one.
By now how you play the field is how you’d learn to overcome adversity.
You’d go out and start networking to get a job, get your own little studio apartment, and start playing semi-professional soccer. In the mean time you start putting all the money you can save into fixing your immigration status. Steven, I wish I could tell you that you’re going to make it to the professional ranks, have a long successful career playing soccer, fix your immigration status, and travel across the world. But, I’m sorry to tell you, that’s not in your cards.
A few years into putting all the money you had saved to get your immigration status fixed, you find out the attorney you were working with had stolen your money and bailed. Furthermore, your pro playing chances were dwindling. I know this is going to be a difficult point in your life. But hear me out, the twists, turns, and obstacles you encounter are making you stronger.
Nobody said life for you was going to be a cakewalk. Think about it. When is it ever for anybody? You will learn to continue fighting through. You’ll continue putting the hard work in. That drive will get you back into college, starting with a small community college that will lead you back into a 4-year university. In fact, you’ll be working really hard for 6+ years to get your degree and finish school without debt by going to school and working full time. Along the way you’ll have met a beautiful girl by the name of Sarahi who you’ll fall in love with. By 2006 you’ll have graduated with a degree in Finance and Accounting and be married. Imagine that, you have accomplished what you said you would all those years back and attain that elusive degree. You’ll have gotten a good paying job in accounting and start working up the corporate latter. You are on your way boy!
But, if you haven’t picked up on the pattern by now, trials and tribulations will continually test you. By 2009, you’ll have fallen into a deep depression. You won’t acknowledge all your accomplishments to date and allow some of the traumatic history of your past to put you at a very weak state. You’ll let your guard down and make a mistake that will land you in Jail for a night. Despair, disappointment, failure, defeat will consume your thoughts. It is all over, you’ll think. Those next few months will test you like no other.
This is a good time for you to try and remember who you are deep down in your core. You’re no failure or disappointment. Don’t you remember that little boy alone in the desert with a bunch of strangers outrunning border patrol. Maybe this is that higher power speaking to you so you can stop feeling sorry for yourself and get back to trusting in the plan you set out long ago. To be resilient and strong no matter what. To not only be a survivor, but to break through the standard mold.
When all is said and done, seating in that jail turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to you. Coming so close to losing it all taught you about vulnerability and got you into therapy. That time rehabbing will get you closer to your wife and benefit your outlook on life tremendously.
So much that in 2011 you’d have your proudest moment of growing your family with a beautiful baby boy named Eli. Tears rolled down your eyes and you even hyperventilated as you held him in your arms for the first time.
For the next year you put your career in hyper drive mode, do everything you are asked to do and work your behind off. You’ll be rewarded with a Controller position, managing a finance department for a multi-million dollar company and getting paid a six-figure income. Wow!
Yes, you. The scrawny little boy who almost died crossing the border and was raised by a single alcoholic mother. The one who for many years slept in a tiny, freezing cold basement in New York City because there was very little money. The still undocumented immigrant who has not been able to fix his status.
One thing you’ll never want to forget is that you are in control of dealing with the cards you are dealt. It’s up to you to make the very best this short life has to offer.
I’m writing this letter to you from our beautiful home in sunny southern California. It’s actually been put for sale because this past year Sarahi and I have put in place a major movement in our lives. A movement with a different purpose. One with integrity, community, and wholesomeness. One less driven into what you once thought would make you happy (the bigger house, luxury cars, materialistic stuff) and more in tune with what brought you into this country in the first place – The Opportunity To Make A Difference and Impact your Surrounding in a Positive Manner. We’re decluttering, minimizing, and getting rid of the unwanted weight in our lives. Sarahi and I have both transitioned out of our corporate jobs and we’re working on getting to know ourselves better and finding our new purpose. We’re also still working on fixing your legal status. We’ve put all the correct paper work in place and should have a positive response in the next 3-6 months, that is 30+ years in the making. I’m also becoming a better father along the way and trying to teach Eli how to make the best of his life. Working with him to help him enjoy and remember his youth. Teaching him to work hard and be a good person; To learn how to overcome the obstacles that will come his way; To smile, be respectful, present and grateful for every day we get to spend in this world. And to trust in himself to be resilient. Because, Stevie boy, just as you are teaching your son, you gotta do what you do best and be resilient.