The moment that changed everything

I didn’t realize that another way of life was possible…..

I was quite comfortable living in the adobe home that was built by my father’s hands. I didn’t mind sleeping in a twin sized bed in a room the size of a small walk-in-closet. Although I was approaching 10 years of age, I still had a “Smurf” comforter and curtains that my mom made for me when I was 5 years old. During the hot summer nights, I would open those curtains, prop open my window, and with the help of a breeze passing over the waters of the nearby canal, I had the best make-shift air-conditioner ever. A good night’s sleep was absolutely necessary. Even the tiniest interruption of sleep would make the following workday miserable. At a young age, I assumed my responsibility on our family farm. The concept of a summer break was foreign to me. Summer break meant trading in my classmates for fellow laborers, “braceros”, as my social circle. By the age of 6, I had mastered the art of the azadón and picking chile. It was a beautiful life, a simple one, one that was filled with purpose and meaning.

In middle school I came to the realization that I desired more than the way of life that my parents had modeled for me. Adolescence tends to stir up an awakening in most people. Adolescence was the time when I realized that I didn’t didn’t want my current state of living to become permanent. I came to this realization during my induction to the National Junior Honor Society. Prior to the ceremony, my mother and I got into an argument over what I would be wearing. I wanted to fit in with my classmates and fashion was starting to matter to me. I had hoped to purchase a pair of khaki Bugle-Boy slacks and a new tie. However, I found myself with nothing to wear but an unfashionable pair of blue slacks and a hand-me-down collared shirt, that at one time had been my cousin’s, then my brother’s, and now it was mine. However, this was the least of my worries. It was what my mother wore, that made me realize that something was flawed in our way of living. As we got ready for the event, I saw her put on a purple dress that was one of her favorites. I always loved to see her in that dress. But that night, I saw things in a different light. I realized that she had worn that same dress to every one of my school events since I was in 3rd grade. It wasn’t because it was her favorite. She wore that dress because it was all that she had. For the first time, I realized that my family was living a life of poverty.

My discovery could have paralyzed me. Instead it taught me to dream. It taught me how to envision a better way of living. I have learned that I never have to settle for my present circumstance. I can take the good that has been passed down to me, such as love, faith, courage, “ganas” and a good work ethic,  and still reach for the stars. I recognize that I have a choice in the outcome of my life and I am making every effort to make it great. It is my hope and prayer that I will leave a mark of excellence on this earth and inspire others to do the same.

Ready – Set – Vamonos!


John Garay

Photo credit: Stephi 2006 via / CC BY-SA