When I was a little eight year old girl my world fell apart, at least in my childish eyes. I had been so happy at my school, with my friends, in my home. All of that was going to change in ways that would ultimately create an existential crisis for me even though I had no idea what that meant at my young age. It began when my father and mother announced at dinner one evening that our family would soon be moving from Houston to San Jose, California.
I remember feeling instantly betrayed, but I remained silent as my parents happily spoke of the grand adventures we would enjoy. I could only think of how content I was with things just as they were. I loved visits to my grandmother’s house on Friday nights where I would meet up with my dozens of cousins. I had a best friend named Lynda who was my confidante. I liked my teacher at school and my classmates. There was no adventure, no matter how grand, that would compete with what I already had. Still, I complied with my fate without complaint, keeping my sadness to myself. I was a child and maybe my parents knew better than I did what would be good for our family.
I thought of my eight year old self when I watched Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical movie, The Fabelmans.” The hero, Sam, watches his family fall apart as his father follows opportunities in his career that precipitate moves and loss of friendships. Ultimately the Fabelmans end up in northern California just as I did when I was eight. The culture shock of being there made Sam the butt of jokes and even bullying. As his family slowly fell apart Sam found hope in his amazing talent for making films.
My own story is more mundane. I was shy, awkward and a year younger than my California classmates. I had difficulty making friends and missed the ones I had back in Texas. The promise of opportunity did not work out well for my father either. He quickly announced that he had left the job that had lured him out west and his search for work began again. With it came other moves and a feeling of tension inside our home. Our odyssey would take us all the way back to Texas after a brief stop in Los Angeles. With each new school I withdrew deeper and deeper inside myself.
Our last hope seemed to lie in Corpus Christi, Texas where my father had spent his high school years. He was suddenly happy again and somehow his joy affected me because I too felt comfortable in my newest school. My teacher was kind and my fellow students were welcoming. I could see my family living happily there, but it was not meant to be. Ultimately my father would find work back in Houston and I would attend the fifth school of my third grade year to complete the circle of our journey.
I don’t recall much about the end of that school year. By then being the new kid in class had become a role that I played without fanfare. It would soon be summer and my parents were looking for a new home where we all would start anew. I was able to see my cousins on Fridays and visit with my friends from the neighborhood that we had left only months before. I felt more comfortable than I had since that fateful revelation that we were moving from the place that I so loved. There was hope on the horizon that would soon be dashed into a million pieces for me when I awoke one morning to learn that my father had died.
I suppose that I might have lost any shred of optimism at that moment. I know that I was devastated by the loss of my father, but somehow in the one of the darkest times of my life I made myself a promise. I created a goal that would guide me all the way to the present. My plan was to take full advantage of my education just as my father had always urged me to do. I knew that he wanted me to fulfill my potential and I was determined to do so in his honor. I would challenge myself to use the gifts and skills that he had given me. I would become the person he knew I might be.
My life has been a rollercoaster ride of challenges. My goals have been threatened by circumstance. Nothing has ever been easy for me, but I kept reminding myself of my father’s encouragement when he insisted that I could be a better person than I believed. I created a kind of roadmap of hope for myself and for my family. I knew that with sacrifice and optimism and the love we felt for each other we would be okay. I conquered one difficulty after another with the kind of determination that my father always insisted that I must have. I watched my courageous mother caring for me and my brothers alone and found that I had her grit as well. I constantly pushed my many fears aside and moved forward, sometimes after being pushed way back.
I did not become a world famous movie maker like Steven Spielberg did, but I conquered my fears and used my talents to create a life that has had great meaning for me and hopefully for those around me. I kept my optimism and hope alive. I saw tragedies and knew how to plan to overcome them. I kept the faith that I had to power to keep going even when roadblocks made me stumble. I’m not finished yet, but I believe with all of my heart that we humans with the grace of God will work together for all that is good and just. Somehow we always find a way to become the light in the world. Even in a dark present in which so many seem so lost, a light shines in the future. Of that I am certain. I will push on. I will keep hope alive.