I finally graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree, 14 years after finishing high school. I did get my Associate’s degree, but that was in 2004. That was the last time I had gone to school. Unfortunately, an Associate’s doesn’t mean much in the workplace nowadays and I’m sure that in a decade or two, a bachelor’s won’t mean much either.
Anyway, it was a lot of hard work, and I couldn’t have done it without my wife’s support and encouragement. And when I look back at my life, I can see that I was always surrounded by wonderful women who not only raised me, but taught me so many things.
I have early memories of my mom teaching me how to write my name. I was probably around three years old when I learned to write my own name and I never stopped writing and dreaming since then. And it all started with my mom, who is a loving and wonderful woman.
When I was 11, my mom had to make a really tough decision. She wasn’t able to leave Cuba, but I did have a chance and she had to choose whether to let me come to the United States without her, or to keep me in Cuba. She chose to give me the chance of freedom, the chance to become a better man. Because of that difficult choice she made, I graduated. It all started with that decision. If she had said no, I would probably be in Cuba, under a regime that not only extinguishes freedom, but also hope.
I know that my mom cried every single day for 12 years, until we were finally reunited. It wasn’t easy, but I’m thankful for her love and her example of sacrifice.
When my mom wasn’t able to come to the United States, my great-grandmother became my second mom. She always looked out for my best interests and always protected me. Perhaps because of my situation, she always took it upon herself to make sure that I was safe, even if that meant being a little strict at times. But I’m very thankful for her!
She’s a wonderful woman and she’s such an example of endurance and hard work. She’s lived a difficult life. From having to drop out of school at an early age to help take care of her family, to her husband (my great-grandfather) dying suddenly from a heart attack.
Mami, as we all call her, is just amazing and I’m so thankful to God for all the years he’s given her. I pray that he gives her many more.
Tati, as we call her, is also another mom to me. Along with my great-grandmother, she raised me and always made sure all my needs were provided. If I wanted a pair of basketball shoes (no matter how ridiculously expensive) she would buy them for me. Her main way to express love is by giving and, man, she must love me so much because she’s given me so much!
Tati is such a hard worker. I haven’t met anyone who’s worked so hard all her life without complaining. She works tirelessly and she does it all for the rest of the family, to make sure that all our needs are met.
When I left Cuba at the age of 11, I came with my aunt, uncle, two cousins and my great-grandmother. My aunt has always been there for me. She’s always treated me as if I was her own son.
I almost didn’t get in to community college because Financial Aid was being ridiculous, but my aunt went to the school and she talked, and somehow she made them accept me. If she hadn’t done this, I probably would have returned to Cuba. I really considered it. I was so depressed. My mom had sacrificed so much for me to become a productive man, and my chances were almost cut short by lack of money.
My aunt is also a hard worker and can talk her way into anything. Also, everything that I know about fashion, I’ve learned from her.
Where to begin? I think everyone dreams of meeting their soulmate, of meeting that one person that makes you believe in fairy tales. My wife is that woman. There’s no else in this life that I’d rather grow old with. She’s kind and loving and very smart. She’s made me a better man, thanks to her love and support.
If it wasn’t for her encouragement, if it wasn’t for her not minding that on my first semester back I spent almost every weekend studying at the library, I wouldn’t be a graduate today.
Not only is she a wonderful woman and wife, but she’s a great mother, too. Ellie and Oliver don’t know yet how lucky they are to have such an amazing mother, but as they get older, they’ll see. Her love for them and her dedication to them is amazing and I’m so thankful to God that I found her.
If it wasn’t for all of these amazing women in my life, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I have learned so much from them and I’m so thankful to have been surrounded by such strong and loving women.