Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mentors in my Life

I have glimpses of happy moments in my childhood, and most of them involve being in the kitchen spending time with Silvia. Silvia was everything to me when my world felt unsafe. Picture a latina Florida Evans from Good Times… a fantastic cook, (no one makes carne asada con platano like she does), a deep raspy voice that was nothing but soothing to the soul, a laugh that came from her belly, and a love that made me forget all my fears. Silvia was my family’s “maid” and my first mentor…

Then there was my big brother... Growing up, he used to talk to me like I was his equal even though he is 6 years older. I was his friend, and he was my hero. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to climb a tree, and always called me when he was having girl trouble. He also made me laugh… a lot. He used to say that I was his best audience. Laughter was our refuge, and it’s still our way of connecting with each other.

Aunt Dola is my inspiration for being the cool, crazy auntie… Dola came to Colombia when my father was dying, and she made it ok to laugh when all we wanted to do was cry. She had no shame, whether she was streaking through the living room topless or telling us about some escapade she had teaching yoga to inmates, she kept it real! I am happy to say that today, I am the crazy cool aunt I always wanted to be.

When I came to LA, I met Debrah. Debrah opened her arms and showed me what true unconditional love was, and how powerful it can be. For the first time in my life, I did not feel judged. She promised me that there was nothing I had ever done that she hadn’t done herself. One of the first things she ever said to me was “Let me love you until you learn how to love yourself”. As the founder of A Place Called Home, Debrah knew that her ability to see the best in people and to love them without judgment was the key to changing the wounded youth of South Central. She saved my life more than once, and introduced me to my life. I humbly follow in her footsteps today.

I would seriously have no life today if it weren’t for two people: My best friend and my boss. On the day that I did not show up to work, because my alcoholism had finally won, Tony called the only person he knew would know where I was and that was my best friend Lizl. Together, they found the help I needed, and never left my side. Today, I still look at both of in awe, and continue to learn from them on a daily basis. Lizl is everything I want to be as a woman: strong, intelligent, powerful, beautiful, silly… and Tony inspires me to be a better person everyday and to want to change the world one relationship at a time.

And finally there is Derrion. My mentee… I can’t imagine my life without her. She is joy, pure and simple. She is, as Maya Angelou says “Phenomenal Woman”. You cannot contain her spirit, and her power. I feel blessed every day that I get to sit across from her and learn. Learn what it means to love, to laugh and to cry without shame.

These are the people who made me who I am today, and I thank and love all of them from the bottom of my heart for giving me such a rich and beautiful life.



Tsilah said...

Wow, another great blog post! Your post reminded me to take the time to remember my many mentors who shaped my life. Thank you Juliana for all you are and all you do.

Judy Friend said...

Let me add, yes indeed, another great blog!!!