I can remember exactly how this poem came about. I was sitting on my couch, journaling about how confused I was by life (as usual), and as I looked down at my legs I realized that in the light I could very clearly see the veins in my thighs.
Here’s what I wrote in that moment as I traced the little lines with my fingertips, took a deep breath and remembered that no matter how confused or unsure I might be, at least my heart was still pumping blood through my blue veins. And I felt a little better.
This means someone decided to leave their home and everyone they knew to be able to start a new life with their spouse in a different, foreign country.
Now I don’t know if I can really understand what this feels like, but it’s something my mom did. And she did it for love.
One of the most undeniable and powerful things we know to exist is love. We listen to songs about love, we yearn for love, we hurt when we love, we do crazy things when we love.
And as many others have done before her, my mom left behind her whole life to follow her love.
The real sacrifice she made, and the leap of faith she took, are things I sometimes overlook. But my parents 24th wedding anniversary is this month, as is my mother’s anniversary of immigrating to the United States from Ecuador, so I thought it was time to tell their story.
My mom grew up in Guayaquil, Ecuador with her parents, five brothers and one sister. She has endless stories to tell of her childhood, from flying small planes over the beach with her father, a pilot for the Ecuadorian air force, to getting into all kinds of mischief with her brothers.
Her father owned a hotel in a small beach town called Manglaralto, so she and her siblings would spend their weekends at the beach, riding into town on “borrowed” donkeys from the neighbors and befriending the surfers who came from all over the world to compete in local surfing competitions.
The stories she’s told me about growing up in Ecuador seem like one adventure after another, which is maybe why she was so ready to embark on this one.
In 1992, my mom met my dad, who had come to Ecuador from America with the Peace Corps. The next year they were married, and my mom made the decision to leave everything she knew and come to live with my dad in the United States.
“You know, I don’t remember feeling scared,” she said. “I remember feeling the most sad about not being around to watch my nephews grow up, but I wasn’t scared.”
My mom doesn’t get to watch her nieces and nephews grow up and have children of their own. She worries about not being there for her parents now that they’re getting older.
Living so far away from those you love and share your roots with is so hard, which is why we try to visit our family in Ecuador as much as we can.
I am grateful to have grown up with two countries I can call home, both full of loving family and friends, and it is all because of my mom.
“You two make it worth it,” she says about my brother and I. “If I didn’t come here I would’ve never had you. I did it for you.”
I will never be able to thank her enough for the sacrifices she made. I just hope she knows that now, everything I do is to make her proud, because I am proud of her and the things she’s done for love.
If you visited the Recreation Center on Cal Poly’s campus Monday night, you may have noticed sticky notes sprinkled throughout the gym; at the entrance gates, next to mirrors, above scales in the women’s locker room. More of them were stuck at eye level along the Starbucks line and in various bathrooms on campus.
“We’re trying to bridge the idea of [feminist] theory and activism, because there’s no theory without activism and there’s no activism without theory,” said Triota club president, fourth year Psychology major Zulema Aleman.
Aleman is a Mexican-American, first generation student, and has been a part of Triota since her freshman year. She is involved in many activist groups on campus and also works for Safer, where she builds curriculum for undocumented students and leads “Let’s talk Sex” on campus, which is a monthly series about sexuality and communication and consent in relationships.
“It’s really interesting getting to work with different types of people and in different types of cohorts, and at the end of the day we kinda’ have similar goals where we want a better future for everyone,” she says.
Triota kicked off their annual Self Love Week with a Sunday night social, where they indulged in pasta while writing positive messages on post it notes to stick in places where people would take a moment to read them and be reminded that, yes, they ARE worth it and they ARE beautiful exactly the way they are.
Self Love Week hosted many other events, such as “Cuties & Compliments,” where they handed out cutie mandarin oranges, granola bars and of course, compliments to students in the UU, and a photo booth on Dexter lawn where they gave passersby the opportunity to take a photo with a sign on which they could write “why their body is a good body.”
photo courtesy of Zulema Aleman
photo courtesy of Zulema Aleman
Self Love Week was created last year, after many of the Triota board members realized that even though they all had different body types, they had all struggled with body image. The week was an opportunity to promote body positivity.
“Coming to this campus as someone who is fat, I realized that I wasn’t comfortable with myself,” Aleman said. “All the time I saw people who were the same body shape, who were like, ‘We’re gonna go hiking. We’re gonna go to the REC… I can’t eat this, it has too many carbs.’”
“That’s fine, you should be looking after yourself, you should definitely look out for your health,” said Aleman, but Self Love Week wanted to encourage girls to love their bodies and have a good time in their bodies in a way that didn’t revolve around eating a certain amount of calories or going to the gym a certain amount of times.
This year, Self Love Week became more about self care for activists.
After the election of President Trump, Triota has been much more active on campus, speaking out for the threatened rights of women.
“It’s not a secret that any of us don’t like Trump in Triota,” said Aleman, “Our activism has taken a huge toll on all of us and we kind of wanted to have a week where we celebrated one another and really pushed self care, because a lot of time it falls on the activists community, that is so small, to do a lot of work from the ground up.”
As I mentioned in my last post, activism can be exhausting when you take a step back to look at the grand scheme of it all, and realize that everything you’ve been doing barely makes a tangible difference. Aleman herself has wanted to give up countless times, but taking the time to consciously practice self care reminds her that she is doing so much.
Self Love Week was a reminder that even when it feels like we’re putting in way too much effort and getting way little appreciation, we are enough. It’s important to acknowledge the beauty that accompanies our individuality and to look after ourselves, and of course look after one another.
“It always just made sense to me to just stand up for myself and stand up for other women,” said Aleman.