Like everyone else, I imagined how my first day of high school was going to be. In all those imaginings, I never thought I would come home crying my eyes out.
Fortunately, my mother was there to immediately wrap me in her arms, her lips whispering a series of comforting words and questions over my tears. I usually hated being hugged like that; it always made me feel weak and small. But, in that moment, a hug was exactly what I needed. In between sobs, I told her about how much I hated my first day at a predominantly white school. My dark skin, almond-shaped eyes, and infamous Hispanic hips made me stick out, which is the last thing I wanted on the first day at a new school. I almost expected my mother to laugh at my petty problems but, as always, she did not. She did not say much, either. She simply told me that it is our differences that make us who we are and make us beautiful.
My mother's soothing words took me back to a time when I could not understand that lesson. I used to feel pure embarrassment whenever my mother opened her mouth to speak. Strangers had to strain to understand her jumbled English layered with a heavy Colombian accent. As horrible as it seems now, I sometimes wished I had another mother to take her place. All throughout elementary school, I became instantly mortified whenever my mother uttered a word; I simply wished to vanish into thin air. I only voiced these thoughts once to my mother and immediately regretted it.
My mother had left Colombia to take me away from the increasing drug cartel violence and inadequate education system. She left her family behind and worked double shifts for eight years to make sure that I had a promising future. But once, as a 12-year old, I admitted how much her English embarrassed me. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I felt ashamed. It was as if I had told her that all the sacrifices she had made were for nothing because I still was not proud of her. Even with a hurt ego, my mother simply brushed my words aside. She has never been the type to apologize for who she is.
Looking back now, I finally understand. I no longer care about how different I am from my classmates. I also no longer care about my mother’s accent. It is my dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, and Hispanic hips that make me who I am, in the same way that my mother's thick accent makes her who she is. It truly is our differences that make us beautiful, and I will never apologize for being me.