Trusting Where I Belong

I’ve always felt like I’ve never quite fit in. Besides being (slightly) socially awkward, that sense of belonging in cultural groups has often been fuzzy for me.

You see, my mom is black and from Portland, Oregon and my dad is Latino and from Panamá City, Panamá.

I can remember how confusing it was to fill in those bubbles on those state tests. First question – Spell your name. Second question – Put in the date. Third question – Choose your ethnicity (ONLY CHOOSE ONE) and the choices would be “Black, non-Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino”. *Slaps forehead* As a kid that was confusing. I always felt forced to choose where I belonged or just shoved into a category.

I didn’t get to choose my dad passing tho 😦

He passed when I was three. That left my mom to raise us on her own. So I guess you could say, I grew up “black.” We weren’t super close to my dad’s side of the family unfortunately (I can count on one hand how many times I spent quality time with them as a child). Like my grandpas funeral in Miami. I remember walking into a room and seeing a bunch of people who looked like me (our genes are SO strong!). I remember thinking that was so cool – long lost family easily identified me (so clearly I belonged there).

And the summer I spent a week in New York with mi abuela, mis tios and mis primos (Krystle, Kevin, Jackie, Melanie and Eric). Man. That trip meant so much to me, foreal. It’s probably a faded memory for everyone else, but I remember Jackie teaching me how to make sugar/cinnamon toast.  Sneaking around uncle Alfredo’s house with Krystle & Kevin lmao! Predicting my future with Melanie playing M.A.S.H (y’all remember that game!????) and Eric and I riding bikes around the neighborhood and him leaving me on some random Brooklyn street to find my way back to their house (Dude left me for like 15 minutes and it felt like a lifetime).

I know my oldest sister remembers that summer too tho – it was my first time seeing her since I was a toddler. I got to hold my oldest niece when she was just a wittle baby! ❤

At times, I felt like I was on an island. Kind of isolated from everyone (it didn’t help we lived so far away too – from both my mom & dad’s side). With that, I definitely developed a deep longing to know family and my cultures.

I felt this the most when we were living in Kentucky. That was a really uncomfortable place to live for awhile. When we first moved there I was in middle school and I had never been reminded so many times in my life that I was black. There weren’t a lot of black people in the area (unless we went to Cincinnati – we’d see WAY more). But the kids at school reminded me alot. I didn’t remember ever feeling that way living in Seattle. Everything seemed more diverse…the people, the viewpoints, the food, the things to do…just everything! I was told “you talk funny” (because I enunciate all of syllables in words). People would ask if I was mixed with white. I’d say “No. I’m black and latina” then they’d assume I was Black and Mexican…like people just didn’t get me. I remember being TOO excited to graduate because I didn’t really feel like I belonged there either.

Looking back, I don’t hate our move to Kentucky. I wouldn’t be who I am, married to the person I’m married to and doing what I do without that move.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever wonder what life would be like if my dad was alive tho.

I’ve had so many questions for years and as an adult I’ve begun to branch out and reach out to family (slowly, but surely). But I feel like I’m in a constant state of “catch-up.” Like I have to make up for all the years of not knowing them and having a relationship with them. Because I grew up with what I’d call predominately “black” experiences, I sometimes feel like a “fake latina” too (especially since I don’t speak Spanish fluently).

However, if I’m trusting my truth, I must admit  that although I would have loved to grow up in a Black and Panamanian household; Knowing both sides of my family well; Having Latin experiences and Black experiences, that’s just not my story. My experience is my experience. If I continue to look at it as if all those things made me less than or I’m lacking in experience, then I’ll always have that feeling like I missed out on something. My story and background is unique to me, and It doesn’t make me any less Black nor any less Panameña. That’s my truth.

So I won’t condemn myself or let those little thoughts that I’m not _______ enough, control how I feel about myself and where I belong. My mother is who she is. My father was who he was. And I am who I am.

I am proudly Black.

Proudly Panameña.

Proudly Latina.

Proudly Black Latina.

Proudly Lauren.

Proudly Laurena.

Proudly Me.

 

-Lauren ❤

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The things we try to carry-on

Back in 2015, I wrote this…

I’m sharing today.

It’s crazy tho; had this small thing not happened, I don’t think I’d even be married now.

Be careful what you carry-on…

————

I travel a lot. For work mostly. About 2-3 times a month during busy season. So you’d think with that frequency, I’d be a pretty expert traveler, right?

Well, the other night I went through security, and one of my carry-ons got stopped. I quickly remembered my lotion and thought they would just take that. To my surprise they took both of my new Shea butter mixes, coconut oil AND body lotion.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the consistency of Shea butter, but pure Shea is kind of hard and often takes some prodding to get it to a usable form – you have to kind of do a deep finger scoop, and then rub your palms together for the butter to melt.

Of all things, I was least worried about the Shea because its not liquid. After explaining that to the TSA with no avail, I abruptly turned away from the additional security screening area where the woman may or may not have still been talking (I know, I know. That was rude, but shorty was upset). I kind of lost patience when she told me to check them knowing darn well there was no way for me to check those things once I’d gone thru security and still make my flight.

I’ve gotten so many similar products thru security, I really was surprised. I’m still kind of mad writing this, but as I stomped away, I had to just put on some music to calm down. However another voice spoke louder than whatever track was playing.

“Lauren, don’t worry about leaving some things behind.”

Not going to lie, at this point, a tear was on the verge of rolling down my pouty face.

“Don’t get so worked up over the things you have to leave behind. Some things you just have to buy/recreate again.”

Talk about watery eyes in public.

Before I even got off the train that takes you to different parts of the airport, I was at such peace with what just happened 7 minutes prior. Mostly because God has a crazy way of speaking into my life at the times I need it most. It didn’t just resonate with my TSA experience but that message also applies to other areas of my life.

In my relationship, I can’t bring all of the things that I want or think I need – some things simply just HAVE to be left behind.

At the end of the day, TSA took my products because it was a matter of safety and security for all people. In that same way, some of the things that I have to leave behind in my relationship, are for the safety and security of the relationship. Some of the bad habits, attitudes, etc. could harm the relationship as a whole. Therefore it’s important that I not carry some things on board (even if it hurts or costs me).

Peace is my choice.

Much of my weekday is a constant go-go-go.

Be here at this time; connect with this person; sell this account; handle this service issue; fill out paper work; call this person; etc. And because of the demand, I seldom take a break. However today is different. Over the last couple months, I’ve been really been mindful of my peace. Where it’s at? What’s standing in the way of it? What foundation its built on; etc.

My peace is so important to me. I think I’ve known that on a basic level, but never truly understood that until life got real, REAL (so to speak). Like, when I was in a depressed state, peace usually felt pretty unattainable. And then like now, having a sales job, there are a lot of stressors at play. And if not careful, they’ll run you. I can’t have that tho. My being CANNOT be dependent on every little thing around me affecting me. I have to be able to take things as they come (because life is always throwing stuff; and people are continually…um people lol), so I have to be able to manage what’s “real” and whats not; what I can change and what I cannot: What’s worth my attention and what is not; Etc.

So today, I decided to take a quick break….enjoy this bench in this breezeway and enjoy and regain my peace. Because I should and I can.

-Lauren Relinquished