This Is Who I Am | Mary Part 1

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’m originally from Brazil. I’m thirty-three years old and I had a very good childhood. I have a twin sister, so it’s like buddies forever, and I have a middle sister and a younger brother. We have always had that feeling of “togetherness”. We were all very close because we are all close in age. We were just each other’s friends and that was all we needed. 

And then one day my parents were just like, “Okay, we’re moving to America.” And I was like, “What?” I was in eighth grade and my class was planning its eighth grade trip. I was with my friends since fifth grade because we change teachers, we don’t change in class, thus I had tight friendships. So we were planning a trip at the end of the year for when we graduated and then that never happened because I moved. And I had three dogs that we had to leave behind and I was just crying like crazy when that happened. I was in Brazil until I was thirteen.

I was excited to move but I wasn’t. I kind of like seeing new places and having a fresh start. But I just didn’t want to leave my friends and my routine. I would go to kind of like a YMCA place and I would meet friends and rollerblade, or I would do swimming classes, or aerobics with my mom, and then just hang out with friends on the weekend. And some of my family was there, literally like a walk away. So we would hang out a lot.

I’m not sure to this day why my parents wanted to move. But I guess it’s just “the land of opportunity” kind of thing and my mom had always dreamed about living in the United States. We had been here before as tourists when I was nine. We visited Disney World and so she was immediately like “Oh, I want to be here!” And I’m sure there were underlining reasons but I’m not sure. I don’t think I want to speculate.

What did I dream of doing as a child? Well here is the problem, I don’t know what the heck I want to do with my life! I’ve always wanted to be an actress, then a lawyer, then a forensic scientist, then a detective, then a writer. I feel like I didn’t end up going to college for that because I didn’t know what to do. I felt like “Why just go and get something random and spend money and time when I don’t know what I want to do?” I always excelled at school and I always liked to study, but I feel like after I graduated high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to put time into it but maybe I should have. But I still don’t know to this day what I want to do!

I worked retail jobs here and there, and then I started office jobs and I learned accounting software that I use today. So I was just doing that and I built on that skill to where it became something valuable. So now I am in accounting and I work for a CPA firm; I’m a bookkeeper on staff. I like the detail part of it because I’m very meticulous and detail-oriented. I don’t really care about numbers per se but there is an inquisitive detective part of the job too where you are looking for numbers. I like doing this job but it’s not something I planned to end up at. It doesn’t embody who I am but it does allow me to use some of my skills and that’s reflected in this job. So I don’t know what I dream of doing and I guess I’m still looking for it.

I think I have major separation anxiety...

When I think about pain, being away from my family comes to mind. Because in our culture a family is very interdependent and very close to each other. It’s almost like they’re your friends. I don’t have a lot of friends, I’d rather have a small circle of friends, so it’s like my family is my friends. So you know, when your two siblings move away and they’ve been there all along, that’s hard. I know they’re online, but they’re far. I think I have major separation anxiety. Not really, I’m using that term loosely but it’s hard. We were all together through leaving Brazil, coming to a new country. Then in high school when I got a car, I liked to drive everybody. I’d drive everybody and we’d all be together in one car. And we’d have our friends and all that, but at the end of the day it was the four of us, together.

So my sister got married and she went back to Brazil with her husband. He has a business there, so they’re living down there now. And she has had two little boys, my nephews, that I haven’t seen yet. And then my brother also left for Brazil and now he’s married. And so my sister and my brother are in the same town. I see pictures online, I see what they’re doing, but it’s not the same. We get used to the online presence and the online moments, but it’s not the same as presence. I do have my twin sister. She is three hours away from here, so I do get to see her when I can. We talk on the phone a lot. She better not go anywhere anytime soon.

I don’t know when it really started but I just think about them a lot. My sister left in maybe '07 or '08, and my brother left around 2010. My brother was there for my wedding but my sister was not. She would come to visit but then it gets hard, she has kids and it gets pricey to fly sometimes. So I just have to kind of see them online really.

I don't like attaching myself to people...

I don’t like attaching myself to people because I think of the fact I moved, so I had no family anymore, no friends, no dogs. That feeling of separation is never good. You might feel very sad, like something’s missing. So I would consciously set up in my mind walls that keep me from getting close to people, so I wouldn’t attach myself to people. I remember when we were in the house and somebody broke in and took some of our things, little things like watches and jewelry. I had worked so hard for my class ring and my mom had given me this other ring when I was eighteen, so that was gone. So to me I was like, “Let me not attach myself to things.” So that was the first, because you feel so helpless, “I can’t do anything.”

It’s kind of like that when people leave. You feel helpless and you can’t do anything. So I tried to build mental walls to keep people from being close to me. Because I think in my mind that some how they are going to go away. Either I’m going to move away or they are going to move away, things are going to happen or they are going to die. So I tried to not attach myself too much to people, at all. And I think that was a result to all this separation that I’ve had.

I definitely still feel and do these things today. I have one friend in Jacksonville and I’m okay if we don’t meet so much because then I’m not attaching myself. I think even with family I do this: my brother and sister are in another country and I don’t really talk to them. I see their pictures online, I like their posts, and I’ll say something here and there, but I don’t really get involved because I don’t know. The pain hurts.

The pain hurts.

I do struggle with dreams. My mind will be wandering and I could be putting dishes away or driving or reading or doing whatever task and I’ll go into this dreamlike state where someone in my family gets in an accident or something sudden happens where there’s a death. Where I wasn’t expecting it, where I didn’t have time to say goodbye, or say how much I care. So I’ll constantly be catching myself doing that with different family members, mostly my immediate family, myself, or my husband.

I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never really had a death in the family. You know my grandmother died but I was so far away and I hadn’t seen her in years. So I cried but it didn’t effect me as much as if something had happened to one of my siblings. I know that I can go through death, that’s just a normal cycle of life, everybody’s going to die. But it’s that ultimate level of separation. Yes, I’m going to see them again but you’re just not ready to separate from that physical world. Not that I’m afraid of death, sometimes I crave it. But it’s just not being able to make a phone call when you want because you’re not able because they’re not there. So I think that’s a way I try to cope, to mentally prepare, emotionally prepare, just because I don’t know the day of tomorrow. So I guess whenever I can, I try to make sure to let them know that I care, that I love them, so that when that day comes I’ll be like, “Okay, they went and they knew.”


To read part two of Mary's story, click here. To read February's installment of the This Is Who I Am Project, click here.