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Leaving a Life This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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All of my life I’ve heard of other people’s hardships, but I never knew that my own mother came head to head with so many obstacles in her home country of Colombia. From a daughter’s point of view, my mother has always been the one I would turn to for advice, the one who told me to clean my room time after time, and the person who embarrassed me in front of my friends. I never took the time to think about her life before. I knew my mom moved to America for a better existence, but I did not fully understand how different everything can be when you come to a new country – until I experienced it myself. My mom’s whole life was a long ride, with happiness as the destination. She did anything in her power to grab hold of that, even if it meant leaving everything she had ever known. But had starting a whole new life in America been worth it? I was about to find out.

As soon as I arrived in Colombia, it was like the world had flipped upside down. All I heard was Spanish all around me. Although I understood most of what people were saying, it was overwhelming not hearing anyone speak a word of English. Their stares made me feel as if everyone could actually see my heart bursting through my chest.

Getting to Colombia had been a challenge, to say the least. We missed our first plane, which forced us to stay overnight in Miami. When we finally arrived, I could tell that my mom was extremely excited to be home at last; as soon as our plane landed, she cried, which I wasn’t expecting. The way I saw it, our three-week trip was just a long vacation. To her, it meant gathering all her old memories from the corner of her heart and sharing them with her daughter.

My experiences in Colombia proved to be very ­different from what I was used to in the United States. My mom grew up in a family of 13 kids, so hot water in the shower and her own bedroom were not exactly options. I stayed at the house where she grew up, and was surprised to find it still full. My grandparents and two of my aunts still lived there with their families. Given the opportunity to experience life without luxuries, I was able to learn a lot about the culture, my family, and of course, my mom. Although it took me a few days to adjust to living in Colombia, it seemed as if my mom had never left.

When I met my mom’s best friend from childhood, something caught my eye. I realized that the purse she was carrying had been mine, one I had loved. At first, I was surprised and angry with my mom for sending my purse to Colombia. However, I quickly changed my mind when I saw how happy her friend was with it, and how much she loved it. I finally understood why my mom made a big deal of collecting my old clothes and books every year to send to Colombia: people there truly appreciate the things in life that I used to take for granted.

For example, I’ve always known I would have a chance to go to college. But when my cousins in Colombia graduated high school, they went straight to work. They told me that for most kids there, college is not an option because money is a big problem. In America, college is usually considered the next logical step after high school, but in Colombia, people rarely continue their education. Now I realize how lucky I am to live the life my family in Colombia only dreams about.

Being able to witness the Colombian way of life firsthand gave me insight into how my mother grew up, and into her reasons for coming to America to start her family. She wanted the opportunities that were not available in Colombia. She wanted a better life for herself and for her family. She wanted happiness. My trip to Colombia taught me to appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given and strengthened the bond between my mom and me. I am proud of her for having the strength to leave everything and move to America, especially since she did not know a word of English. I can only hope that I will have one percent of her courage when I am forced to face the struggles that life will throw at me. I have a feeling that with her support, I will be able to find my own happiness, no matter what stands in my way.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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Word Weaver said...
Nov. 17, 2011 at 8:53 am:
This young author is a powerful writer - the writing flows, and it touches the heart of the reader...continue writing...you have a gift and write with maturity at such a young age....very refreshing.
 
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