By Luz Treviño
I’m sure you’ve had rough times and asked yourself, “When is this going to end? Is there a light at the end of this never-ending tunnel?” Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve not only had moments like this, but a whole decade of my life felt this way. During that period, I had a near-death accident and one of my coworkers actually gave me a mug that read, “I’m Having One of Those Decades.” It made me realize that I wasn’t paying attention to my life. I was on autopilot, and during those 10 years I did not allow myself to reflect on my current life experiences or my childhood. Then I remembered a promise I made to myself at very young age:
“One day I am going to be somebody.”
This is where the story of my awakening and true gratitude for life actually begins.
I was born in Muskegon, MI, but I don’t recall the time I spent there because my sister, brother, and I moved to New York City when I was just a toddler. I attended school up to second grade and, at eight years old, I was looking forward to third grade when we were told to say goodbye to our friends in church; we were moving to Puerto Rico the following day. I cried myself to sleep that night, and on the airplane I pressed my forehead against the window watching the lights of New York disappear as I said to myself, “I’m coming back.”
In Puerto Rico, after moving from one place to another, my oldest sister and I were placed in a Catholic boarding school. When the nuns gave us a tour, I was scared to see that the dormitory consisted of two long rows of twin beds very close to each other. Lying in bed my first night, I placed my right hand under the pillow and pressed the right side of my face hard on that pillow. I didn’t want that hand to come out. You see, I sucked two of my fingers, and I was afraid the other girls would notice and make fun of me. I cried myself to sleep once again. I missed my dad, my little sister, who was born while we were in New York City, and my brother.
I was 10, and I was repeating third grade. I didn’t know Spanish either, but I caught up quickly. The nuns made sure of that! We didn’t get many visits from family. Owning a car was a luxury and they lived far from the school. Once every few months a lady would pick us up so that we could spend time with our youngest sister, who insisted on seeing us. I made the best of my situation. At the age of 13, I graduated from this school with high honors, and my Dad took us to another boarding school, closer to where he lived.
I was so excited and nervous at the same time to see the school, make new friends, have more visits from Dad…and then all of a sudden I froze…I looked up and noticed these large letters all across the building, “Colegio de Niñas Huerfanas.” (School for Orphan Girls).
I realized then that the “boarding school” where I spent the past four years actually was an orphanage.
So many images and thoughts crossed my mind. “I was not an orphan. Why? Why?” Then it all made sense: There were rich girls from town who attended the school but didn’t live there. That’s why they made fun of us…That’s why we had to clean the classrooms and hallways, deal with some abusive nuns, jump out of bed at 5:00 to get ready and help a younger girl, wash the uniforms in huge concrete basins, read to the nuns while they ate; and the list goes on. I felt so little, like NOTHING.
My sister and I looked at our Dad and asked him, “WHY?” He told us he was working hard to save money to get a place for us. We told him we wanted to leave with him. We pleaded and cried, but to no avail. It was not possible, he told us. That night, as I had done every night, I got on my knees and prayed and cried.
“I’m going to be somebody,”
I repeated to myself over and over again until I fell asleep. We were in that next orphanage for one year, and then we moved with our Dad and my brother into a two-bedroom tiny “doll house,” as we called it. I was so happy. I went to a regular public school and loved it. I even realized that I was thankful to the nuns, for they instilled in my heart a love for learning and school.
When I graduated from high school, I kept the promise I had made to myself on the airplane when I was eight. I went back to New York City with a goal in mind: “I’m going to be somebody,” and I knew education was the path to get there. That was my goal, and I vowed that if I ever had children, I would do my best to give them what I didn’t have. They would be somebody.
I began my studies, not without difficult moments, but my determination and God’s promise to me kept me moving forward. Whenever I felt defeated or ready to give up, I would go back to the image of a 10-year-old child kneeling before the cross, weeping. This was a constant reminder throughout my life that no matter what I went through, I was never alone. God was always with me, giving me strength.
My experiences as a child did not make me a bitter, resentful, or an angry woman. On the contrary, they prepared me to become the strong woman I am today and to be able to face all the events that unfolded during the decade that inspired my soon-to-be-published book, I’ve Had One of Those Decades. To be able to face each challenge life has brought my way with strength and determination; for this, I am grateful.
We are all “Somebody.”
Luz Treviño was born in Muskegon, MI. At the age of three, her family moved to New York City (NYC) and then to Puerto Rico. She graduated from high school in Puerto Rico and moved back to NYC and enrolled in college. Luz has a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in School/District Administration. She worked for 32 years for the NYC Department of Education. Luz taught in a South Bronx, NY, high school and retired as a high school administrator. She is married and has raised five girls. Luz is now retired and lives in Boca Raton, FL, where she currently works part-time at Florida Atlantic University, College of Education. Email her at Luzcandy1@aol.com.
This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at Amazon.com, BN.com, www.Transformation-Publishing.com and all ebook formats.