New Beginnings (Essay)

Words by Tania Peralta. Photo by Kahlil Hackett.

In March of 2014, my little family (my partner and our barely 3-month-old daughter) and I found ourselves at the brink of homelessness. Our six month plan hadn’t gone nearly as we hoped for, which made us weary of every single, next step that seemed like an option.

What started out as a couple of nights of living out of my best friend’s bedroom (while she slept on her own couch) turned into weeks and then months. My daughter had been born on Christmas. When March came around, and it was evident that we’d be staying in her room for quite awhile longer, I realized I had only been out in daylight three times, for very brief moments, since the baby had been born.

It was like I needed to rehabilitate back into the world. “Let’s walk to Queen street and back,” my best friend would tell me. (It was a five-minute walk.) On the first day we tried, I only made it four houses down from hers. I hadn’t been outside for so long that my eyes hurt from the daylight. It was still cold and grey out–weather I usually thrive in when I’m healthy, but I wasn’t. I had never felt as rock bottom in my life. I felt like an irresponsible parent and overall irresponsible human. I felt the weight of every single bad decision I had ever made on my back. What’s the point? I’d think. Every single step we took as a family seemed to backfire sooner or later.

I had been taking care of myself financially since I got my first real job at 16. I had figured out how to take care of myself. As a high-school student, I even helped my parents with their bills. I prided myself on this. Up until I got pregnant, I would deposit small amounts of money into my mother’s bank account every other week, and not even tell her–despite needing those $20, $40 myself.

When I phoned home to tell my parents of what was happening, I was terrified of what my father would say. I had already disappointed him in so many ways. Even with most of those disappointments being based off his Christian beliefs and internal anti-blackness, I still felt pain in my heart for not being the woman or achieving the things he had hoped I would. I didn’t want their money. I don’t really know what I even expected from the call, but very slowly and clearly my father said, “Todo mundo tiene derecho a recuperarse.” Everyone has the right to recuperate.

For the next two years it seemed like I was always recovering from one thing or the other. It was emotionally draining, and it left me physically exhausted. Things kept happening to me and around me that made every previous dark moment seem minuscule. But every time I would find myself there again I’d hear father’s words: Todo mundo tiene derecho a recuperarse.

My dad’s advice acknowledged the weight on my back from my past and present, but also separated my future from it. It was advice that made me feel like I can always cash into a new beginning, whenever necessary. It was the first time I had heard my father even slightly reference healing, the re-birth of one’s self post trauma, and the ugly chapters of our lives that we feel stuck in. Todo mundo tiene derecho a recuperarse. These words have allowed me to fall back in love with life as a whole and not just the joys of it. These words remind me to not just move on from one bad chapter to the next but to let myself heal in order to learn and progress. These words let me access a new beginning everyday, and even within each day. These words have led me to heal from heartaches I thought I’d never be able to separate myself from.


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