This Is Who I Am | Christina Part 2

Note to Reader

This is a twelve month project which aims to bring to light the individual pain experienced by young women and to show how their unique stories make them who they are. We ask you to feel with an open heart and respect their stories.

I had a conversation once with this lady and we were talking about my “why”. Why do I do what I do, why do I want to help people, why did I want to do non-profit work, what is my why? And when I really looked at it, I started to realize that a lot of people know how to love, a lot of people know how to support, but there’s not a lot of people who know how to do both. But my grandmother was one of those people that knew how to do both. And it changed me because I felt like I was missing something when she was gone. I missed a mother and I missed someone who loved and supported me. My dad is that way, a huge impact of love and support, but it’s different with a woman connection. I think that impacted me because it really made me look at the relationships that I have with people and how those relationships added value to my life. I feel like everyone is in your life for certain reasons.

I feel like everyone is in your life for certain reasons.

You can’t expect everything from everybody. Your relationships with each person will be different. It really made me individualize versus categorize my relationships with people. Because at the time I wanted "that person" to be my grandmother and I would expect something out of them when they could never give me what I expected. So I was like, “No, this is someone that really loves me but maybe they don’t know how to support me but they have my back.” And with somebody else like a friend or acquaintance, they support what you do but they don’t necessarily have love for you, they just support you. So just realizing that not everybody has everything but they still hold value in your life. That’s probably what changed me the most was really looking at my relationships with people and individualizing them. I tried to really focus on how to have a relationship with each person that’s unique to us and not apply a general concept to everybody.

I definitely still struggle with my grandmother's death today. My family isn’t really religious but we are really spiritual. When my grandmother passed, my aunt, she had the worst time dealing with it in my opinion. She prayed to my grandmother to leave us dimes. She said, “Anytime you want us to know you’re there, leave us a dime.” And it sounds crazy but it happens all the time! I think the first time it happened we went to my cousin’s graduation party. It was the first time the family had done something out of state, together, rented a cabin, and had a good time. And we probably found like ten dollars worth of dimes! No pennies, nothing else. Like you’d go to put your shoe on and there was a dime in your shoe. Or you’re sitting on the couch and you sit up and there’s a dime under your bum. It was just stuff like that. I had an uncle and he passed away in a boating accident, and he had his flip phone in his phone case on his hip when his boat capsized in the water. So you have a flip phone in a leather case, under water. We went to the hospital and his wife went through the phone to see if it worked and she opened it up and there was a dime in the phone. You can’t tell me her soul doesn’t exist! You can’t.

Pain...doesn’t have to define you if you don’t let it.

I don’t think that any pain is bad, I just think it hurts. I think it’s just as important to hurt as it is to feel joy because that’s what balances you. I think life is balance. Pain is perspective. Your pain is different than my pain but we’ve both felt pain. No one can say which is worse or better. It’s how you define it, it’s what you do with it but it doesn’t have to define you if you don’t let it. Pain is good if you allow it to be. Like trying to understand what it means, understand why it feels that way. Because there is always a why, there’s always something behind it. There’s always a lesson in it. So if you look for that, then you can make sure you’re not in that place anymore.

I think I’ve grown into understanding that life is bigger than just me. I have to live my best self because when I do, other people benefit from that. So now I’m someone who understands that everything that I do can influence somebody. I feel like I’ve now started to accept that I’m a person with a voice that other people can learn from. People I come in contact with, if I’m comfortable sharing, they can learn from it.

My pain has made me less emotional because I feel like if I can live without my grandmother, I can do anything. I don’t get attached to anything because I feel if I can live without the biggest thing in my life, then other things are minute compared to that. So it’s made me guard myself a little bit and not be emotional about things that other people might be emotional about. Because to me it’s an interaction, things can change, what you do and how you do it doesn’t matter, what matters is who you are. So it made me identify with who I was and what I felt, versus what I had and what I did. You just never know; I lost all my grandparents on my dad’s side before they were sixty-five. I don’t want that for myself but it could very well happen. So what do I do now so that when I go I can have the same impact on people as my grandmother did. It didn’t matter how much money she had, how many friends she had, or where she traveled, she just loved us. She taught us relationships and how to communicate. Her death really forced me to think about how I felt in my gut more than anything.

The push to be authentic is something I see throughout my whole story. I didn’t grow up with my birth mom, which is out of the norm. Most of the time you hear of situations where people don’t grow up with their dads, but very rarely do people talk about moms leaving. So early on that was very different. I had to learn to identify not with the fact that I didn’t have my birth mom but to identify with the fact that I had these women around me that cared and loved me. That made it more important. So just be you; you have love, you have family, be yourself. Just because you don’t have your birth mom, don’t feel like you’re without, and that’s something that has been through my whole life. Authenticity to be me and not care about what the norm is or what other people think. Authenticity and my family has really pushed me to do what I feel is right and to not feel like I’m without just because of what someone else has said or done to me.

I think when you experience pain, it forces you to be vulnerable because it’s an emotion you don’t necessarily want. I don’t want to experience pain but when it happens, you have to deal with it. So beauty for me was always internal. The city where I was from, we didn’t deal with race like I have seen here, we were friends with whoever was there, people came in different sizes and shapes, and stuff like that. The way I grew up and the people that were around us were loved and they weren’t the people that were on TV or in ads. The people on TV and ads didn’t look like us, so I didn’t think of them as beautiful. I was always reassured that I was special by the people around me, whether that was my looks or personality. My family explicitly would say that I was special. So once I realized I was special and I didn’t look like the TV, then I didn’t care. So how I looked at and shaped beauty was always from the inside. Because the external, it never mattered. I never chose friends by what they looked like. I chose friends by what we had in common, how they made me feel, how our relationship allowed me to grow and evolve. It was never, “Oh, you have cute shoes! Lets be friends.” It was never about that.

I definitely know my worth. And some people may not see it but your perspective isn’t my reality. You may not think I’m beautiful because your perception is different but that doesn’t mean anything on my life or my reality. Because there are people in my world that do see my worth. So I think you decide the people you want to keep around you and if you don’t think I’m beautiful or see who I am, then we don’t connect. And that’s okay, we just won’t hang out!

Everything I’ve experienced, good or bad, makes me unique because it’s my experience.

Everything I’ve experienced, good or bad, makes me unique because it’s my experience. It’s given me perspective, a different outlook, insight, and has allowed me to connect with people. Because when I go through pain, I don’t like to be alone. Where some people may close off, I try to connect with people and to not keep it in because when I speak it, I release it. My pain has allowed me to be beautiful because I face it, I wear it, it is what is it. I feel like if I wear it, feel it, get through it, and figure out why it happened, then I’m closer to guaranteeing that it won’t happen again.

Who am I now? I am my best self. I think I am at a point where I’ve reached total awareness. Whether I share that with people or not, I deal with the reality of how I feel, what my gut tells me. I think now I am aware. And to those reading this, don’t chase pain but don’t run from it. You don’t go seeking pain and you don’t put yourself in positions that you know could result in pain, especially if you’ve already experienced it before. If you do experience pain, if you attack it head on and you figure out the why, the how, the when, the what, then I think you can get through it.

Sharing my story is helpful which is kind of why I wanted to start a podcast. It’s largely because I don’t care to be liked, to be a personality, or to be famous, but I want to be influential. Whether that’s to one person, ten or a few hundreds, I feel like life is legacy. When you pass, no one cares how much you made, what you did, they care about who you were and made them feel. So that’s a big part of how I try to live.