Ni de aqui, ni de alla — the tale of living in between two worlds.
Thursday January 7th 2016 marked my 17th anniversary of moving to NY.. I was so busy at work, and dealing with various personal issues that they day slipped my mind until my parents mentioned it while we were having “el algo” which translates to a little something that we Colombians eat in between lunch and dinner, that day consisted of some very tasty colombian empanadas and coffee.
I still remember the day as if it was yesterday, my parents had sold everything we had in Colombia in order to cover the expenses of starting a new life in New York …so we were living with my grandmother at the time. At around 10AM my dad rushed into the house holding the five plane tickets in his right hand and rushing us with his left so that we could make it to the 1PM flight leaving out of Medellin to Bogota, and then our connecting flight to New York scheduled to depart at 4PM. Everything that day happened in the blink of an eye, there was really no time for lengthy goodbyes, crying, or processing the fact that I was leaving my beloved country were I had been extremely happy and moving to a cold, a different place where I was going to grow up in between two worlds. I remember as we were walking to the plane, my parents holding hands, and my mom telling my dad: we are doing this, and there is no going back. NO GOING BACK.
I was wearing a green tank top, and a skirt…a damn skirt!!!! I guess no one really thought about the fact that we were coming to New York in the freaking winter…… good thing my aunt had plenty of jackets, scarves, gloves, and layers of clothing that I had to put on before leaving the airport obviously thinking that they were exaggerating and I did not need all of those clothes, but I so did. As I walked outside the freezing air hitting my face, I realized that I was very far away from home, and in the car on my way to my new home, I cried. I cried over the uncertainty of not knowing when I would go back to Colombia, over how terrified I was of starting school here, over not having any friends..over starting a new life at the age of 11.. here in New York City.
17 years have gone by since that day, and so many good and bad things have happened since my parents took that leap of faith and moved here. New York became my new home, and I have embraced with open arms. I have learned how to be a New Yorker, and most importantly I have consistently and with a lot of perseverance reached my professional goals in this the land of opportunity, to me that is way of paying my parents back for their sacrifice and hard work.
Why do I say that I am in between two worlds?
Even thought I have lived here for more time that I did in Colombia — I find my self constantly divided between two very different worlds. Here in NY I am the girl with the weird name and the accent. In the other hand in Colombia I am the “gringa” typically too uptight, always on time, and complaining about the lack of urgency to get things done. In reality, I feel that I am the perfect mix of both worlds. I am the result of two worlds, a proud Colombian immigrant raised in New York who understands and values the meaning of hard work, caring about what you do, and empathy. I have been lucky enough to have been raised in a household of two very hard working parents who taught me that everything I wanted out of life could be reached through dedication.
I grew up listening to Vallenatos and Guascas, dancing to Porros and Cumbia. Nothing fills my heart with more joy than listening to an accordion melody in a Vallenato, or when I am moving my hips to the beats of “Que me toquen un porro Sabanero”, which my mom made sure I knew how to dance since I was 8 years old. I think in Spanish, I dream in Spanish and then I translate. I carry my Colombian energy into everything I do, that sparkle in my eyes when I see another Colombian, that genuine interest for everything Colombian related, the pride that fills my heart when a good deed in Colombia is done, or when I see that the things in the country are going well.
New York gave me the chance to walk in the street at night listening to Nirvana, Metallica, The Beatles, KORN, and Led Zeppelin while feeling safe. That sense of security is something that my beloved country did not provide me or my parents and its why 17 years ago they decided to migrate here. New York taught me responsibility, accountability, drive and motivation. Words that can not even translated in Spanish because we simply do not used them.
These two very different and diverse worlds have made me who I am today, and I truly think that I am the best of both worlds, yes I am most of time in the middle but most of the time I am able to embrace both of my cultures and be the best version of my self I can be with what both worlds have taught me along the years.