Finding a place to belong | Leticia's Story

Leticia grew up in an alcoholic family. In her 20's she found herself in a job she didn't like with a boyfriend who simply wasn't that interested. The death of her father gave her the courage to see that things could be different, and that she had the power to make them different.

I always felt like I didn't belong anywhere. In my family growing with my boyfriend whose hobbies and projects always took priority... My job gave me that same sense of being outside. No one talked to me. I felt like I didn't belong. I didn't fit anywhere.

Growing up, I had a rough relationship with my dad. He was an alcoholic, and the customs in my home were very traditional. I wasn't allowed to do anything. Then my dad got cancer and I wound up taking care of him. My siblings and my mom weren't always very helpful and I found I was the one who had to take the majority of the responsibility. All of the hard decisions fell on me because I was the one who was there.

Everything was so hard, then all of a sudden it stopped. I lost my dad.

During this time, my boyfriend was very unsupportive. When I asked him why he wasn't there for me he said, he didn't know how and that we didn't work. I'm not in love with you. Our lease was up so I moved out, then not too long after that I was laid off from my job.

Things couldn't get any worse. I had no job. No one in my life. And yet at the same time, it was this big opportunity to test myself.

With my dad, I hated him. And, then I didn't hate him anymore. So funny to think that. I had to make huge decisions and coordinate all of these things. I had always felt powerless before, but then I was doing things. I suddenly felt competent. I learned I could handle things. Hard things. And then I also thought about my dad's career how he had worked for 50 years in the same profession and how much I had hated my job. It was such a miserable place. Before the layoff I had already started to think about all the hard work that I needed to do to get out.

I started working out and losing weight. It wasn't just that I wanted to change my health or my personal physical self--I wanted to change everything. I needed a new lifestyle. I wanted what other people have that seem put together, happy and successful. As I started to get more fit, I started to accept myself more and stopped worrying so much about what other people thought of me, including my family.

I'd always been willing to help out people and was very selfless. But now I've found that taking care of myself isn't the same as being selfish. Even just a few months ago, accepting a compliment was really hard. I don't feel that way anymore. I've changed how I feel about myself.

I have a lot of work to do still. I want to get more organized. Control my anger. But I feel like I'm having a lot more fun even at ground zero. I've had some amazing weeks.

I went to dinner with a nice guy who is a real gentleman. He treated me like a lady. It was refreshing. I didn't have that with my ex all the time. I was able to enjoy being treated well without the nagging voice that said "I don't deserve it."

I still feel like I need healing to actually become who I really am--the vision of myself that I want to be. How I want to be treated. What kind of job I want to have. Now when I"m applying...I shoot for bigger things. American Heart Association? Why not? Marketing Manager? Why not? There's a lot of "why not" in my life these days.

If you can think about one really exciting thing every morning, it gives you motivation. For me, it is the boot camp classes at the gym. I love it because I'm pushing myself. I love the people there at the gym. It's the first time I feel that I'm part of something. I'm thinking about getting certified to teach the Zumba class. There are possibilities. I need to make income, but it all doesn't all have to come from the same place. I can do things that I love. I have all these skills and talents and haven't really used them as much as I should.

If I were to give advice to someone else who was in my situation, I would say, "just do something." I used to only think of it as the Nike slogan, but it makes so much sense to me now. Stop worrying about who you are and what you think you can and cannot do. Just doing something allows you to uncover things that help you when you need to do something again. Don't let yourself think you don't have the time or don't have the money. There's always a way. In the end, you learn something or achieve something or get closer to your goals.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall