I remember that day, I remember it very well, every moment and detail, I guess I remember a lot of days but not quite like I remember this one, and yes I just typed the word remember five times, but I do! It is the memory of a very uneventful day that changed my life.
My birthday is May 6 but I don’t really know if I had a party that year. I don’t really think that was the highlight of my year if I had a party, but I do remember one special day; it was May 20th, I had just turned 16 about a week and a half before. Of course I was insecure, doubtful, and terribly awkward, well not much has changed… anyway I went to school like any other day, long lasting suffering of being sixteen and having to go to high school; however I didn’t really hate school, I was a decently smart guy and had pretty alright friends, from the musician, to the outcast, to the prettiest girl in school. I do feel we were a bunch of nerds, each with their own personality. After school I walked home in the unbearable hot sun of May in this tiny town in Mexico.
When I opened the door, there they were!!! Yes, my parents were sitting down at the sofa, and it would have been a perfect scene from a movie or tv show we all have seen if they had turned on a lamp as I walked in. However, it was 3:00 PM so it might have been a bit too dramatic. Anyway, as soon as I walked in they said: “we have to talk to you” so naturally I sat down and listened. Let me back up a bit, the previous couple of weeks my grandmother that had been living between Mexico and the USA is visiting us. She had insisted time and time again to my parents to let me go live with her in the United States, arguing how if I have papers, (meaning I was born in Los Angeles, I thought we already established this, sorry) I should probably learn English.
At this point I have told my parents about my ambition to pursue a career in culinary arts. So as I sit down they start telling me how they just bought me a plane ticket to the states, I apparently leave the next day, they go on telling me how they have considered my desire for learning a new language and studying culinary arts abroad. They go on and on about how I also need to cross the border because I have never have had a U.S. passport, and with good reason, I had spent the majority of my life at this point in Mexico. They keep on explaining how laws are changing and why I need to go back in order to ensure I cross the border with my birth certificate and I get a proper passport from a country I knew nothing about.
After I passed the initial shock, there was still entirely way too much going on in my head. YES, I say to myself. I am packing and I’m moving on, to another country, to independence, to different opportunities and to hopefully a better life, at the same time I’m thinking, NO. What about my friends? What about holding on to what I have built? What I have achieved until now? What about my family? So I packed up everything; all the memories, regrets, & dreams I had created up to this point. The next day, I was on my way to the airport. The whole one and a half hour ride there I couldn’t help to think about everything I was leaving behind, how exited I was, but still having this uneasy feeling of my parents wanting to get rid of me.
After a quick 2 hour plane ride, I was at the Tijuana border, waiting in a lane of cars that seemed never ending, because it was in fact never ending, And yet, after waiting for two hours we finally saw the booths where the immigration officers were seated. Just barely in sight, because it wouldn’t be another hour until we were face to face with them. We finally arrived and my uncle, aunt, and cousins had drilled all the English I needed to know in order to fool the officers…. as if my birth certificate were fake. I know for a fact it is very real even though at this point in my life I’m very confused about it.
I know I have been told by my brothers and school mates that I am not really Mexican, that I was born In California. However, I completely froze when the officer asked me the first question in English. Of course I didn’t understand what he was saying. I was born in Los Angeles but I was taken back to Mexico and I say taken back because I will forever be a Mexican that was born in the States, not because it was supposed to be like that, but because at that point in time my parents had to be there in order to pursue a better future. I of course, failed to answer, so he sent us to a secondary interview. This secondary interview lasted 4 hours, I felt like we were all prisoners, being interrogated by one, two, three, and there was the fourth officer that comes up to the car… at this point I don’t know what to think of anything. My brothers had always made fun of me for being a gringo and I had never accepted it. And now these officers were actually doubting my gringo-ness so I don’t really know how to feel about it, then again I’m 16. I guess I’m not supposed to know how to feel about anything.
After four hours, the multiple officers are either hungry and want to go on their break or they decide my birth certificate is actually authentic. Either way, they let us go and I couldn’t have been happier. We drove for another two hours and when we finally got to my uncle’s house. It had probably been 10 hours since I had left home. I finally realized nothing would ever be the same again. Every smell, feeling, or sense of what used to be home a few hours ago would never be the same.
Finding your identity can be a never ending struggle. You can think of it as a messy accident of events that don’t really make sense… or you can think of it as you being a product of a long series of perfect events and decisions taken by a a lot of different people that have lead you to being at this very moment in time.
Perfect timing– which is how I go about things. A chain of events. From good, to very bad decisions that have made up my mind about faith, identity, and understanding of the world around me. My constant failures continued to teach me what perfect timing really is.
By Cristian Hernández