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Me: Before and after

There was a version of me that existed before, and sometimes I think of her. She was a careful woman, never ruffling feathers and always doing things the way things were expected to be done. Thoughts carefully filed and put away in a drawer labeled ďThe Way Iím Supposed to ThinkĒ were fat and full of ideas I learned from a young age. There wasnít to be variation in them, and falling in line was better than having a separate thought and voicing it. She was me, and I was her, and for a very long time we knew each other well.

I think of her often these days and am glad sheís gone.

Iíve said that itís imperative to step outside the places familiar to you, to breathe the air of a place that isnít soft and comfortable. Iíve walked in places that took me outside the zone of safety, traveled in a small car through Northern, Central and Southern Mexico and learned to speak a tongue where the letters had to learn to uncurl in my mouth.

Iíve tasted foods that many would look at and exclaim in horror, new food groups inside a steaming bowl. I took to new things without a look of disgust on my face and unsaid words kept in my chest. I knew that to compare, contrast and speak these words would only make me look like a fool for thinking that other cultures did things the way I had learned them.

Despite who I was before, this was why falling in love and marrying a man from another country and culture came easy to me. One day I found him, and my heart said, ďHey, there you are.Ē Diversity aside, when love finds you, you follow; you set the fear placed on your heart to stay safe far away. The woman I was recognized the woman I was to become, and she grudgingly made room for her.

If I said that marrying outside the ďnormĒ of my upbringing was easy, Iíd be lying. Falling in love is the easy part, but just as in any marriage you work each second and minute like itís the last one. The learning and unlearning, thatís the key. Fluidity and commitment, being able to bend over and do the flip backward if you must, are what counts.

The hard part is when people new to any community are expected to drop everything they believe and conform to the pattern that exists, the huge ruts in the ground that can be found in any particularly small area.

My former self would have stayed in the ruts cut deeply in the earth, trudging along and never veering off into a newer, easier route. But once I had left the familiar, forging my own path became easier and easier. I let old ideas go and learned new ones while learning to think critically about what I had always known to be true. Clinging to ideas and never veering off our expected path keeps us stagnant, stuck in place, and we grow frustrated.

After 28 years of loving a man who looked like no one I had been raised to believe I would marry, I find myself refined and hardened like a piece of pottery. Iíve been given a gift, one meant for me, of seeing outside the easy realm of the familiar, the road most are afraid to step away from. New thoughts and experiences flood me like pure, clean water even when tested and prodded, even when what I know to be true is drug through the dirt, a desperate tugging to get me back to the woman I was before. Attempts at this fall away are crumbled leaves in the air as I wipe my palms clear of debris.

The woman I am now is a much better, clearer version of who I was. I think of myself in terms of before and after, an enhanced version of the narrow-minded kaleidoscope I looked through. Drop the veil. Itís easy to let fear unknowingly guide us, dressing us up in our comfortable sweat pants or tightly held belief system, dragging our expected baggage along behind us. I urge you to drop it; see past how you define yourself. Step carefully away from your beautifully decorated box and join me. The air is spectacular out here.

Published: December 5, 2016
New Article ID: 2016712059980