When I moved to the States, leaving everything that defined me, I never shed a tear for my home country. I have no idea why. Maybe I was too young to comprehend the extent of what was happening. This time, for the very first time, I left Colombia with a broken heart. On the last day of my trip, I lay down on my aunt’s bed and I replayed the moments of my vacation. The smiles, the hugs, the silly laughs and the words of love. The reconnection.
“We missed you.”
My plan for this trip was simply to spend every moment with my dad since I hadn't seen him in so long. But life always manages to change plans as it sees fit, and while my dad was busy with some unexpected work, I was left with free time to explore and visit with friends who I have not seen in over a decade.
Every time I have come “home” since I moved to the states I’ve felt like a foreigner, as if I don't belong there anymore. The way people dress, how they speak to each other with such a familiarity. I am not used to that anymore.
I arrived very late Wednesday night and the next day I woke up to get ready as I normally would: I put on some yoga pants, a tank top and running shoes. However, my cousin stopped me right before we left for the mall and told me to change. "Put on something nice and dressy and do your makeup! People here don't go out in workout clothes unless they are actually going to workout.” I almost never wear makeup (too lazy to take it off at night) but from that point on, I wore makeup every single day of my trip.
I used to travel to Colombia often but it’s been almost two years since I’ve visited and this time was such a different experience. One would think the length of time between visits would only further exacerbate my detachment, but instead it was the opposite. It was so unexpected. I felt so proud of where I came from and it felt like coming back to me, to my core and to my very own essence.
I began to explore the reason why I felt so detached from my homeland. I left when I was fifteen and I had to fit into a whole new culture, and my way to belong to my new home was to stop being Colombian and adapt.
Adjusting to a life in the States was harder than I like to admit. “I am Daniela” was the extent of my English knowledge. But it was not just the language barrier, it was the culture. On my first day of school, I was late because I couldn’t find my classroom and when the teacher opened the door I said those three English words I knew, and before she closed the door in my face she gave me a piece of paper and sent me to detention. Of course I had no clue what had just happened so I began walking around, staring at the paper until another teacher found me and showed me the way. Things were like that at the beginning, a circle of misunderstandings leading nowhere. I’ve spent all these years trying so hard to fit in and belong here that I have unconsciously deprived myself of pride in where I come from.
One night while sipping on delicious sangrias in a beautiful restaurant, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine who I have known since I was ten years old. We discussed how we have grown up to encounter such different challenges and how they have shaped us to become the person we are today. She shared with me some of her family and work hardships and I told her how some days my life makes total sense and some days it’s clear I have no idea what I am doing. It wasn’t so much what we talked about but the way it all made me feel. It was like time hadn't gone by. It was liberating because she used to know me so well and by talking to her I can see how much I have changed, and at the same time I realized how much I am still the same person.
When I go to Colombia I always leave grateful and filled with love. This time around I am feeling so much more. I am in a place where I can drop some of the walls I have built throughout the years and truly reconnect to this land and allow it to remind me who I am and where I come from.
Una Semana de Reencuentro en Colombia
Cuando me mudé a los Estados Unidos, dejando todo lo que me definia, nunca derramé una lágrima por mi país de origen. No tengo ni idea del porqué. Tal vez yo era demasiado joven para comprender la magnitud de lo que estaba sucediendo. Esta vez, por primera vez, me fuí de Colombia con el corazón roto. El último día de mi viaje, me acosté en la cama de mi tía a recordar los momentos de mis vacaciones. Las sonrisas, los abrazos, las risas tontas y las palabras de amor. La reconexión.