Last night, my mom and I went for a wonderful walk through downtown and looked at the festive city lights and laughed a lot. We walked by a building she used to work at, the former Army-Navy YMCA, and I told her I had two memories of that place.
The first one I remember clearly. I was sleeping on one of those waiting room plastic couches in the lounge área and she was checking in on me during her night shift. I remember her standing in the doorway holding a mop in her hand, and then closing the door slowly as she returned to her chores.
The second one was of me dancing surrounded by several men in uniform, but I couldn’t remember the context of that memory.
My mom said I was like 4, and she often took me to work during her night shifts. She said there was a party that night, and I must have been called by the music to come out of the small lounge area. I started to dance. She said a captain from the navy asked her if he could take me onto the dance floor and basically, she said, I stole the night. She said I danced the night away without a care in the world.
It’s been such a journey to remember my essence and not be afraid of reconnecting with it. As my mom told me that story, I pictured little Cristina free as a hummingbird on that dance floor, twirling without that self-conscious inhibition I developed after years of messages that had me believe I wasn’t good enough. Years of the world criticizing and judging me often enough that I became ashamed to be myself. All along there were glimpses of me, but being me was always entangled with doubt, self-criticism, and self-consciousness. I was polluted so much by what I thought I should be that somewhere along the way I lost parts of my authentic self because I was so focused on fitting into the illusion the world had created for me.
It has been a slow journey to remember who I am before I was colonized by the fear of the world. I am remembering my essence through the eyes of that little girl who only had love and acceptance for herself and others. I still love to dance. Especially Salsa – it is like flying for me. There is so much freedom and joy in it. When I hear the music, my feet, my hips, my arms and my shoulders completely submit to it and this pure, unrestricted and powerful energy just takes over and flows through my whole being. In those moments, there are no limitations, no doubts, no self-criticism, no inhibitions. Just a surge of pure joy! There can be a hundred people around me, but I feel like a hummingbird flying through the vast sky. I completely come out of my thoughts and step into the infinity of my life. The memories I have of that little girl have become my greatest compass for finding myself.