Breaking Free

"[Mexico] They're sending people that have lots of problems,

and they're bringing those problems with us.

They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

- Donald Trump

These words will not define me. I do not wish to victimize myself - to the contrary, I wish to show the other side of the narrative. I seek to show how as an independent young woman I refuse to allow myself to be categorized. I seek to tell my story and demonstrate how my background, my upbringing, and my hardships have made me into the independent young woman I am today.

If there is something to be learned, I want my story to teach other individuals that they do not have to be victims of their circumstances or of society. The status quo can be challenged. One can create a narrative that truly defines one's spirit. I do not have to accept the definition that others have given about me.

I was born in Mexico. I spent eight beautiful years there. Like any other kid my age, I went to school and in the afternoons would go out and play with my neighbors. Despite my serene childhood, my dad understood that there were not many opportunities for us in Mexico. In fact, he spent most of my childhood abroad, working in the US. My sisters and I only saw him a few months out of the year. Seeking to keep our family together, my father arranged for my mom, my sisters and I to move to the US with him. I did not know what the US was; to me it sounded like a very distant foreign place.

One night I heard my parents talking with some of their friends and the friends were saying, "I hear that the gringos are very racist and rude to Mexicans. I heard that they beat them up and leave them on the side of the street to die." Those words sent shivers down my spine. Immediately, I felt afraid for my dad and family. How will this new life be and how will they treat us? I thought. I imagined this new land to be fortified; its only entrance was through some gates, which happened to be guarded by policemen. What if we tell the men at the gates that my middle name is America? (which happens to be) and that my parents named me so because they love and respect this land. Maybe this way they will not mistreat us, I thought.

Eventually, we arrived in this new land. There were no gates but there were immigration officers. I made a home of this new place and this new place welcomed me. But not without first letting you know that you are the "other" and not one of them. And reminding you of it once in a while. I took every opportunity and ran with it. I refused to become another statistic. I refused to contribute to the percentage of Latino dropouts. I refused to become another number in the teen pregnancy statistics. I graduated high school top 20 in my class. Continuing to defy the stereotype of Latinos being uneducated and of women having to settle down, I went to university.

In line with my defiance of society's standards I did not settle for a women friendly career (I want to add that there is nothing wrong with those career choices). I decided to study Political Science. My parents did not have the money to send me to college. In fact, we never really talked about college. In order to save money I completed my AA in my town's community college, Indian River State College.

I then transferred to Florida Atlantic University where I completed my Bachelor's degree. I made sure to keep my grades up in order to continue getting scholarships. Furthermore, in order not to get into debt, I would drive to FAU twice a week, because my scholarships only paid for tuition and not housing. I loved every minute, sometimes the drive was tiring but nonetheless, I enjoyed all the time I had to myself.

After graduating from FAU, I wanted to continue this adventure in education. I was ready to explore beyond these borders. I wanted to experience something different, something new. The love for traveling is a gift that was given to me by my godmother. At the time of my graduation I had already visited her a few times in London where she was studying. This created in me a sense of wonder. I decided to take a risk and expose myself to a new culture and perspective. I crossed the pond and went to study Theory of International Relations at the London School of Economics. Despite its difficulties, it was an experience that I greatly enjoyed.

This experience enabled me to see life through a different lens. It allowed me to test my boundaries and push my limits. Life is so much more than about harboring hate. It is about so much more than allowing ourselves to be caged by society's expectations and stereotypes. It is about allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. It is about being open and lending our neighbor a helping hand. It is about learning something about our neighbor and about ourselves in the process. It is about growing and becoming a better version of ourselves day by day.

However, the only way we can achieve this is by defying society's stereotypes and getting out of our comfort zones. We do this by educating ourselves and by being open to others who hold different values, customs, faiths, and are of different ethnicities.

Mr. Trump's words will never define me. They have not defined me in the past and will not define me in the future. I refuse to allow myself to be victimized by him or anyone simply because I am Mexican or a woman. Living in London over the past few years has taught me to be more open and less judgmental. I believe we need to learn to be less judgmental and more empathetic. I would like to encourage the reader to continue breaking barriers and to create for him/herself a path that truly defines his/her soul. Never forget the true value of a human life.

Liz C.
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