This is what I share with my clients about my journey.
Featured original art by @artdeandreu
My story of awakening began at 21-years-old. I was a college student at the University of South Carolina. I had joined the military for several very specific reasons. (I am transparent that I was not seeking glory, just survival). Training to be a journalist for Uncle Sam would help me pay for college while it would also allow me to explore career possibilities. I joined the Army Reserves in 1999 before the world was in a state of uncertainty; then three years later, I was suddenly deployed to Baghdad, Iraq for 13 months.
I would come back a different woman and for the next 13 years would find myself in a fog. I came back from a 13-month combat tour and felt totally disconnected from my peers.
I graduated with a degree in English in 3 years and my Masters in Education in 1 year. I was moving fast to get to where I thought I wanted to go.
I didn’t know how to stop and smell the roses and had very few deep relationships. I thought that things were just happening to me and I couldn’t catch my breath.
This feeling would follow me and for over 15 years, I was bothered by a shadow I could not shake. I felt different.
I had all of these amazing experiences in the military …
I sat in war rooms and at the table with men who had perhaps never experienced a woman with a gun, a uniform and a headscarf all in one. I was the triple anomaly. I was empowered by all of the stark shadows that I had experienced.
When most people experienced PTSD, I experienced GRATITUDE. For some reason, totally unbeknownst to me (and this was totally out of my control, everyone experiences trauma and human suffering different), I would find a way to make the most of it.
I was also a different breed of Latina.
Imagine me: Lucy was a die-hard stay-at-home mother who was fierce about what we consumed in our bodies and our minds. She made us homemade baby food and taught me to do aerobics with her when I was four. My father, Daniel came from a line of Cuban doctors and taught us refined undertones that I would later learn were subtle habits that I could appreciate. I was not loud and proud like the Puerto Ricans in New York or Miami. In fact, English was my first language as my father told us, “My kids are born and raised, and going to die here. I don’t want you to have the same barriers that I had.”
In total, I have traveled to 32 countries on personal vacations and also due to the military; I also learned to shoot a gun and to protect myself. These factors are quite empowering!
Yet, I felt like I was missing something.
A 4-year marriage ended very quickly, and 4 deployments later, I finally realized that I was meant to have these extreme experiences to help other people. I was supposed to feel different and BE different because I was different. It was not a curse but a blessing.
What would happen next would change my life.