In June of 2014 I graduated from college, and although it was a great moment, it also meant that I had to move to my next step. My next step was a post-baccalaureate program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill followed by a PhD. From an academic and professional standpoint, this was an excellent decision and worth the sacrifice. Nonetheless, the emotional and mental aspect of that decision was debilitating.
After 21 years of my life living in Puerto Rico, I had to pack and leave. So I did, but not without feeling like I had left behind a part of me. It was so devastating to leave my family in Puerto Rico to pursue my goals. This decision was the biggest sacrifice of my life! Although I made this decision myself, the love of God and support of my parents allowed me to actually go through with it and be confident about it.
Back then I didn’t have any significant (or noticeable) problems with my mental health. So when it came to making this decision, the extent of how this was going to affect me emotionally and mentally, wasn’t really in my mind. After all, we (my family and I) were all focusing in the academics.
Jennifer was on her way to become a professional! – that’s all we had in our minds.
On June 5th of 2014, I boarded a plane to North Carolina. Since it was expensive to bring my entire family with me, my parents had decided that only one of them could come with me and help me settle in. My Dad was the lucky one! He helped me prepare the apartment, buy groceries and get to know the area. He made sure I was going to be OK.
A week passed by quickly and my Dad had to leave back to Puerto Rico. That’s when it hit me. I knew God was with me, yet I felt so alone and empty. I questioned my decision and wanted to return to my island and to my family. For months, I cried every night. I prayed and asked God to take away my sadness and emptiness, and to give me the strength to continue moving forward. I wanted to accomplish my goals and make my family proud. That’s when I first met depression. Despite my lack of trust, God answered my prayers and gave me the strength that I needed to fight depression at the time. God was my savior, again.
4 years later, and my decision of leaving Puerto Rico affects me as if had happened yesterday. However, I am not longer alone (I have God and my husband), and I have learned to live with it.
The sadness that both, me and my family have endured since then, is something that you can’t easily forget. Nonetheless, I am proud of how hard I have worked on my goals, and how much I have accomplished. I am proud of my parents and siblings for supporting me all the way despite how much they miss not having me close.
Now, not giving up means that none of my sacrifices were in vain, and that one day I will make my family happier. One day, I will be Dr. Rodriguez-Nieves!
I miss Puerto Rico, my family and the traditions I grew up celebrating. It sadness me to constantly miss my family’s birthdays, graduations and achievements. It breaks my heart to hear my 12-year-old brother ask me to stay longer every time I visit Puerto Rico. Mom, Dad, Nasha and Elián, I am sorry that to pursue my goals I had to pack and leave home.
I am sorry that our wounds haven’t healed, and we still cry every time we say good-bye.