lonely vacation days.

what does it mean when your eyes cry without your consent?

maybe i can blame it on the windy weather and the way it dries out my eyes…

or i can explain that i’m actually quite happy because my mom is finally herself again…

i can pile on the makeup in an effort to make myself feel better or eat a handful of chocolate as i tell myself i’ll be ok, but i think it’s time to be honest.

with myself.

and with everyone else.

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look up.

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a couple weekends ago my dad came to visit. we went to the tiny town where he was born and where my mom lived until she moved to california with him. if you don’t look up, you’ll miss some of its beauty.

traffic light stories.

la bestia makes a stop in guadalajara. the central american migrants who ride atop the train in hopes of making it to the border and eventually crossing to the other side either stay by the tracks where the train drops them off or they explore the nearby area. some stand at traffic lights and ask for money or food. they’re tired and hungry, but who and what they left behind probably weighs more heavily on them than the sleepless nights atop the train and the backpacks that carry all their possessions.

they stay in the city a day or two waiting for the train to depart again. a lot of people here speak badly of them. they call them criminals and say they’re lazy. i say they’re humans trying to make a better life for themselves.

when they approach me, i give them what i can: water, food or money. i ask where they’re from and how long they’ve been traveling. i ask where they’re headed and if there’s someone waiting for them. i tell them my parents were once migrants and that they’ve managed to make it on the other side.

i try not to cry when they tell me there’s no one waiting for them on the other side. i try not to cry when they tell me they’re fleeing the mara salvatrucha. i try not to cry when they mention that it’s taken them two months to get here from guatemala.

they know they have a long journey ahead of them. they’ve heard about the gangs they might encounter as they head deeper north. some hope to get enough money to take a bus north and leave behind the dangers of la bestia.

i try to give them hope as i listen to their stories. i wish them luck as they walk away. i tell them to be safe and reassure them that they’ll make it. they look unsure, but they’re grateful and they promise that they’ll work hard to make it.

the greatest team the world has ever seen. kind of.

Years ago I fell in love, and I fell hard. It’s not the kind of love you feel while looking someone in the eye not knowing how to put into words just how you feel. It’s different. You see, I fell in love with the Arsenal, a football club based in London who I’m sure is also the first love of many others. I’m pretty sure Nick Hornby could explain this a lot better than I can because if I told you that my relationship with Arsenal is the longest and most stable relationship I’ve managed in my life, besides my family of course, you would just think I’m crazy.

Sometimes I think I inherited this love of football from my dad. He grew up on football in Guadalajara and as a Chivas supporter since birth he has an arsenal of stories about game days, stadium antics and the race to the bar post game. I’ve never gotten anything close to that experience because soccer isn’t very big here. The closest I get is joining the local Arsenal supporters club at the nearby pub in the early hours on game days. The eight hour time difference makes even the late night English games a bit too early to enjoy with a pint in southern California. I’ll be honest though, the time difference hasn’t really stopped me.

My dads football love comes from his hometown, and it makes sense because of the football culture there. My football love is a little more complicated. I don’t have a hometown club, nor do I have a pack of friends to celebrate derby wins with; I probably won’t ever stop trying to get them to join me, though.

Football has been around my house for as long as I can remember. World Cups took over a month in the summer every four years, sometimes I was even in charge of recording games for my dad while he was at work. Every weekend the television fills the living room with the sounds of Mexican stadiums and occasionally my dad participates by throwing some choice words into the mix.

Even on the bad days when not a single pass seems to be completed and not a single player has managed to get in the right spot, I’m thankful for football. It sounds silly, but I think football saved my life. People like to ask, “Why football?” or “Why Arsenal?” I don’t really know how to respond because I know just how silly the truth sounds.

Arsenal came into my life a long time ago, but only a few years ago did it really come to mean so much to me. I was in a bad state, but true to my form I pretended everything was great. I hated myself in every way possible, I couldn’t make myself get out of bed and the words I wrote then are clear: I didn’t want to be alive. Somehow football managed to save me.

I hate how silly it sounds, but really, it may have. It gave me derbies to look forward to, transfers to get excited about and a beautiful game to follow. Because of this I was able to get up, I was able to open my eyes and start to figure out how to move forward again. I wouldn’t give football all the credit on this one, but it has been a huge influence in my life.

I am one of those people who will tell you that football is more than just a game, because to me it became a turning point. Nick Hornby wrote a whole book about his relationship with Arsenal so I feel pretty safe thinking I’m not alone.

As unlikely and silly as it may sound, this is my relationship with a North London club.

Every football lover has a reason for supporting their club, as unlikely as it may be, and Footballists has been looking into the stories behind strangers’ football jerseys. Looking through the gallery of supporters explaining their relationships really made me reflect on my own. It feels good to finally be able to put into words where this love comes from.

P.S. Happy return-of-the-Champions-League!

coming home.

I have tons of great things in my life, and I always have, but I can’t say I never overlook them. Take my parents as an example. They left their home country to try and better their lives in a new country, one that’s far from home, where they speak a different language, use a different currency, have different customs… this list could go on forever. I always imagined this whole journey as something they had mapped out, they knew where they were going, what they needed to do and why they were doing it. I like to think they weren’t scared or nervous because super heroes never seem to be. If I’m honest with myself though, I know my reasoning is way off.

Of course they were scared and nervous and continued to be as they settled here. They were still nervous while raising four little girls who maybe don’t speak as much Spanish as they would have liked and who don’t really follow their religious upbringings. They were scared when we asked to go to high school dances and even more so when we went away to college. Even now, after 30 years here they’re still nervous, nervous when speaking English, their second language, or when hearing about a new boyfriend, or when they visit the motherland because they know they’ve changed, they’ve adapted.

It isn’t until I sit down and really consider all their sacrifices, their hard work and incredible determination to make it work that I really appreciate who they are and what they’ve given me. And then I feel shitty. Shitty because we never share I love you’s, because I’ve never told them that I appreciate them, even though they continue to be my super heroes.

My parents are just entering their sixties and they act as if the age that is weighing down on them is nothing more than a light backpack. My dad comes home from work tired, hungry and sometimes frustrated. His eyes tell a story of wear and exhaustion. He works 12 hours a day because when they offer him extra hours he can’t bring himself to say no. After he showers and eats his dinner, he sits with my mom in the living room watching television and sorting through mail. It’s not long before he starts snoring, but he insists on keeping her company and even commenting on the ridiculous telenovelas she loves so much.

My mom is currently going through one of the hardest struggles in her life even though you probably couldn’t tell from just looking at her. For as long as I can remember she has been a nanny, our house became a home-away-from-home for numerous kids over the years, some of who are still my friends. She’s like a third grandma to a lot of these kids, cooking for them, caring for them and doing silly things to make them smile. Last year she said goodbye to her last babies, not because she wanted to retire, but because she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I was living in Mexico when she got her diagnosis, in the middleof winter quarter at school. I was stressed with school but when I got my sister’s message, I knew the most important thing was my mom and coming home. I put school on hold and I’m here now, to help with whatever is needed. I take her to chemotherapy every week, to doctors’ appointments, I make sure she feels at herbest, making her laugh and smile whenever I can. She does the same for me. Sometimes I feel foolish because I think she worries more about me than herself. If I cry, she cries because she hates to see me like this. That’s how selfless she is. I’m trying so hard for her and for him, I just hope they know. Her tumor was caught early and her treatment is going well so she’s going to be here a long time, I know that, I only wish I had at least half of her strength and courage so I could be of better support through all of this.

miracles

a bit late and a bit shaky.

Who I am and why I’m here are probably the two questions I’ve most struggled to answer over the past few years.

I can tell you my name is Roberta, a last minute name chosen out of a calendar. I’m thankful I was born on St. Robert’s day because things could have been worse. Honestly, I quite like the uniqueness of my name, although it wasn’t my favorite growing up. I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of things growing up, but I found my place in the world years later.

I love my family, but living with three sisters, parents and a constant shuffle of aunts, uncles and cousins in our home had quite an impact on my persona. I never minded sharing our home, it was nice always having people around. My parents immigrated to this country from Mexico before any of my sisters or I were born, they made their home here and opened up that home to all of our recently arrived family members. Our living room and couches were a makeshift bedroom and beds for my cousins and the spare room became my aunt and uncle’s bedroom. I learned a lot from all of this. I learned to share, I learned to be generous and empathetic. I learned that everyone has a story to tell, sometimes a long, difficult story, but it all depends how you look at it. I learned to appreciate my family, not only for what they have done for me, but because they’ve done so much for so many others. I learned about strength and courage and the realities of world.

When I went away to college I felt the most me I have ever felt. I was hours away from home and finally had the space to breathe and just be. I made friends, developed my own story and learned to dream big, bigger than I ever knew possible. I lost those dreams somewhere near the end and wound up back at home feeling out place and disoriented. I’ve been trying to figure out who I am now, and where I want to be for a bit, but just like those winding stories I eagerly collected from my cousins, my story has its own obstacles that need to be faced.

I used to enjoy writing, but I stopped. Maybe I lack motivation, belief, inspiration… I think some words written by Yrsa Daley-Ward could be the motivation I was looking for:

“If you’re afraid to write it, that’s a good sign.

I suppose you know you’re writing the truth when you’re terrified.”