“I would say that I am Venezuelan, but from a mom that was born in France from Spaniard parents. My grandfather was from Valencia, Spain and my grandmother was from the north of Spain in Bilbao, and that’s where my name is from. So that’s why it’s important, that side of me. My dad is Venezuelan but he is also mix. So I consider myself originally Venezuelan, but not purely Venezuelan. I left my country when I was 17. I won a scholarship and I lived in Italy for 6 years. That’s where I studied at the Academy of Arts.
I am very passionate. I consider myself just very passionate about a lot of things––art, sports, film, creativity in general. And another thing that I think defines me is that I am left-handed. That’s a big part of me.
I remember, growing up, all the desks were right-handed and it was years until I got my left-handed desk, and I was the only one in the school. So it was just kind of funny in a way. You know, I was ‘the weirdo.’ Growing up in Venezuela, public schools are not very good. So in order to get a really good education, you have to go to Catholic schools, private. We weren’t really religious, so my mom was always telling me ‘just do it, this is the best education for you.’ I had this old priest and I think he was my teacher, my math teacher. And he wouldn’t let me go to the board because I was left-handed. And the culture of being left-handed is that you are the traitor. Because back in the 1400s, 1500s, the knights would say ‘hi’ with the right and then kill you with the sword on the left. So there’s this connotation that being left-handed is evil. And for that reason, I was not allowed to go to the board.”
I was going through a really hard time in my life and I ran into this book. It was on a shelf, You know it was just there. And it was called 12 Rules for Life. I felt very drawn to listen to the book. I bought the audiobook, and as I started listening to this book, it was exactly every word that I needed to hear. It impacted me in a way that I was listening when I woke up, when I was making my coffee, when I was driving, before going to bed. And I’m not kidding, I think I have listened to the book about 10 times already. And when I’m feeling a little off and I’m driving, I just pick my favorite chapters and I just listen.
I think maybe a few years ago, if I were to run into this book, I would never have read it. I do believe that when you’re ready for something, life puts it in your way. And when you’re ready to receive that thing, that’s when things really grow in you and they change you, and I think this book change me in a way.
It was towards the end of last year. I had a lot of work on my plate and I was traveling a lot. It was November. I was actually on a trip — I was shooting and and I was doing great stuff for them. But [the agency was] losing accounts. So I went back home from Salt Lake City. Two days later I got fired. And I was in shock because I had been doing great work.
At the same time, I was living with my boyfriend. It was a long relationship — over 3 years — and we were also going through struggles towards the end. I felt like I was growing, but it felt like he was not catching up to my growth. And I was at a time and a place in my life where I really needed to know, ‘Okay, are you ready to do this with me? Or do you want to have kids?’ And for me that took priority, more than the job itself. So when I lost my job, I kind of felt like I had all this time to give a little bit of room for myself to process what was going on back at home. That was around Christmas. We went to Colorado for Christmas and we when came back home, he ended the relationship. I had just been let go two weeks prior. So for me, it was like somebody took the rug under my feet and I was just suspended in limbo. I had no idea what to do. Before, I wasn’t that upset about the job, but then when this big event followed, THEN I was upset about my job. Everything kind of happened at the same time. And I felt like I couldn’t cope. So I just did what I am great at doing, which is to be in motion. So I took a plane and I went across the country to see my sister who lives in Miami.
I think it was the darkest time in my life. Yeah.
I think as women, we really demand a lot of ourselves. And we feel like, at this age, I should be doing this and that. And then when you realize––Okay, I’m back to zero. What am I doing?––you feel that you failed in every sense. You failed as a woman. You failed as a professional. You failed as a girlfriend. I was even embarrassed to call my father and tell him that all these horrible things happen to me. It’s just so absurd. Why am I feeling embarrassed? But it’s this thing that we are wrapped up in in this culture, that everything that we share has to be positive, good, successes. And then, the failures — there’s just this shame about it. And my sister is one of the people that really told me that you don’t always have to give good news. It’s okay to give bad news. This culture is messed up. Why don’t we share the failure as, “hey, I need help”?
And that’s why I went to my sister, because I felt like she’s going to be there for me and she’s going to take care of me. And she’s a doctor on top of it, so very sensitive, so she has a very humane way to treat me. If I’m not eating enough, or if I need meds––any sort of Western medicine that might help me–– she will give me that. Or she will talk to me about what to do. Because it was really dark. It was very, very dark time for me.
Towards that period, [my ex-boyfriend and I] were still communicating a little. He just overbooked his calendar with meetings and travel. He was in the entertainment industry, so he just told his manager, “Just book me on everything.” And I’m not built that way. I actually was glad that I had no work. Because there was a moment in my life when I was in Miami and I felt like, I don’t know what I would have done if I had to show up at work. Like I am physically unable to get up.
So I think, in a way, it was like a blessing in disguise that I got fired. It just gave me the time to heal and be with my sister. Coming from a family of immigrants and living in a country with so many political problems, where we don’t have that normality of living in the same country or in the same state even, so having the blessing to be with my sister for two straight months and seeing her daily… I haven’t had that in the last 18 years of my life. So to me, even though I was going through all that pain, it just reconnected me with that little feeling of what it’s like to be in your own country and have your family close. And I don’t have that, so it was good. It was very good.
My sister and I have a relationship where we talk everyday. And I remember I was sick on the couch and [my ex and I] were still together and I don’t know this [break-up] is coming three days later, but I’m guessing he knows! So she calls me and she’s like, “Jo, I can’t stand the pain in my heart.” And she’s a doctor, so she’s like, “This isn’t normal. I don’t know what to do. I really feel like my heart is jumping out of my skin.” She was going through the boards and all the tests for getting her diploma in the US, because she had been working in London so she had to redo everything. So she was going through that and I’m like, “Monica, you’re just stressed out. You really need to start breathing and chilling out. You’re too caught up in all the stress and you need to chill.” And I told her, “You’ve had that before.” And she said, “No, no. This is not like before. This is like I think that I’m getting a heart attack. I’m afraid that I might be getting a heart attack.” I mean, she was freaking out like never before.
The next day she calls and she’s like, “No, pain’s still there.” And she’s checking everything to see if she’s really having a heart attack, or if she’s going to have a heart attack. And then in the morning, [my ex] breaks up with me. I called my sister — this is the first person I call — and her pain was gone.
Then a month later, she’s like, “You know what? I think I knew. I think I knew what was happening to you, what was coming for you.” And I was like, “What?!” And she said, “Yeah, remember that pain that was in my heart? When you called me that morning, before you called, I woke up and the pain was gone. And I think it’s because I knew that was coming for you and then once you knew, too, then [the pain is] here.”
I don’t know, but I do believe her. I believe that, in a way, I didn’t know my own destiny but she knew it was coming down and she knew something bad was going to happen and it did. She cried on the phone because she knew, “My little sister — shit’s coming down for her.”
I saw this documentary of this girl who was in Rwanda where the genocide happened. And to save her life, she was hidden in someone’s bathroom with five other people for three months. She had all this time to go through all this anger and fear and sit in there and just think. And it got to the point where she developed this connection with her heart, where she knew what was going to happen before it happened.
And then she said something I will never forget. What she said was, “The longest journey in life is the one from your brain to your heart.” Because we’re always working with the brain, we never let it connect to our hearts. And how you do that is with a lot of time to yourself. That’s why it’s so important to get the space and time to think and time to connect with your inner-self. If we had that developed, in a way, we would be wiser.
I think thinking is the worst. It’s funny, I’ve always been good with exercise because I’ve swam competitively at the age of 8. So I had that training and then you really don’t think about it. You just get up. You go to the training. You do four hours. You go home. You sleep.
I train here in open pools, in the winter, too. And sometimes I go at 5:30 in the morning, and I get into cold water and I swim. I remember one time, my sister said, “You’re crazy, like I would never do that and I would never jump in a bathing suit into cold water at 5:30 in the morning.” I laugh because I don’t think about it.
One day she asked, “How do you do it?” And I started thinking, “Yeah, how do I do it?” And then I realized ––I don’t think. I think that’s how I do it. If I start questioning, “Oh the bed is so warm and cozy,” then I’m not going to do it. I do one decision at a time. I’m like, “Get to the car.” And then, all of a sudden, I’m in the car. Then I’m like, “Get to the pool.” And then, all of a sudden, I’m at the pool. And then I say to myself, “Ok, get to the edge of the pool.” And then I get there and I’m like, “JUMP!” So I jump and then finish the workout. And I see, “Oh you did it, and it wasn’t that hard.” Because the thing is, you don’t question. You just do it. And you do it because you know you’re going to feel so amazing afterwards because it’s that renewal thing that I’ve been in the water, and it’s 8am and I already did all that. But you can’t think.
When we have a problem we only focus on that problem, and we only see that problem, and we don’t realize that there is so much more. So maybe if you are too obsessed about something, maybe the problem is that your obsession doesn’t allow you to see other things.
So then I realized, “Wow, I’ve been so obsessed about having the perfect relationship or the perfect job. And maybe that shouldn’t be the aim or the focus. Maybe my aim should be — I want my life to be better. Whatever that means, but I want that to be my aim.” And all of a sudden, from wanting a better job to wanting a better life, your vision expands. And it’s this thing that [12 Rules for Life] says––it tells you to pay attention. Pay attention! And since then, every time I feel like I’m going like this [makes a gesture to bring her hands together and narrow her vision] I’m like, “Stop! What do you want?” And I’m like, “I want a better life, whatever that is. It might be not having kids. It might be not having the house with the lap pool. But maybe there’s something else, and who cares what that is, if at the end, the end goal is a better life.” Wouldn’t that be the point anyway?
And that’s when I realized, THAT’S what it means to let go. THAT’S letting go. Letting go of that thing that you’re obsessed with, and not feeling like you’re giving up on your dreams, but thinking, “If I want a better life, if it’s going to be already better, who cares what that ‘better’ is?”
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#WeAreAllDaughters: Yosune, a Venezuelan designer/artist living in Los Angeles. was originally published in we are all daughters. on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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