I have two modes: compulsively overplanning with overcommitments to achieve some “bigger picture” ….or voluntarily riding the wave of Whatever and hoping everything works out OK.
In the past 5 years since moving to San Diego, I have cycled through both modes with varying degrees of understanding that wherever I was in the moment, was probably where I was meant to be.
Since the new year began, there has been a familiar yet almost forgotten acquaintance nudging me and biting at my heels, chasing me with a persistence that is both annoying and hard to ignore. I’ll get to this later.
Before I get into that, let me just say, the past 5 years since I’ve lived in San Diego have been soul-crushing and soul-birthing: I’ve discovered everything that I am not and everything I am. I see now, so clearly, how I had to be removed from everything familiar and placed in an environment of discomfort to shed all of the identities I’d created for myself in the cocoon of insecurity and familiarity I grew up in. Maybe this comes with age, anyway. But the impact of the move is something I can’t deny.
The change in socioeconomic and cultural differences, however slight to the naked eye weighed heavily on me as the only Latina in a room of mostly white AA members or the youngest and brownest in a corporate meeting of grey-haired men with Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla addresses.
Hearing rooms full of (mostly) white wealthy people controlling the San Diego real estate market openly discriminate against and condescend to those that need housing assistance like Section 8 or rely on food stamps, has been truly unnerving and surprisingly a scene I haven’t ever been a part of prior to living in San Diego. I’ve rarely questioned how I ended up in these places of privilege and exclusivity after all hadn’t I busted my ass for 10 years through alcoholism and mental illness to become a “professional” in real estate and property management? Yet, I’ve always truly doubted my belonging in these environments. My family had at one time lost everything during the recession, and we struggled to complete paperwork asking for public assistance, only to find out we didn’t qualify when the electricity had been shut off, our home foreclosed on, and we had to move into a motel.
I am sure I have been discriminated against to some degree though I won’t pretend I’ve felt knowingly discriminated against or unfairly treated. Now that I think about it, the only time I’ve truly felt abused was by an Escondido police office and he was Latino but I was drunk and he ended up not pressing charges after wrongly arresting me. (That’s a story for another day.) But I recklessly watch and hear others being discriminated against in volumes that I’ve trained myself to drown out. Drown out discrimination? Who am I?
This isn’t just a post to bitch about inequalities of income and race. It’s a post to bitch that I, me, Vanessa Gomez, was born a Latina and struggled with addiction and mental health issues and bad credit, I have a criminal record, and the world hasn’t swallowed me whole. And instead of acting as a guide or encourager to others that look like me and have been to the less desirable places I’ve been to like jails and mental institutions, I act as a discourager — siding instead with the oppressing parties that either knowingly or unknowingly, carry a much heavier influence in keeping people down that have already been kicked down. HAVE YOU SEEN THE HOMELESS POPULATION IN SAN DIEGO!? As the divide becomes clearer between who I am and where I am, it is almost as if God is yelling at me: “In this situation, how are you being useful with the gifts I have given you?”
I’ll be really honest, I’m pretty fuckin’ useless in my vocation. Who am I helping? What is my purpose? More importantly, who am I harming? THAT is the question that actually does keep me up at night. Maybe you think I’m being dramatic, “Oh Vanessa, that’s just California real estate, cost of living, weather and sunshine, you know, we’re paying for it, the rest of the US is frozen, ya know…” But when you see hard-working people determined to rent a safe home for their multi-generational family with a housing voucher be unfairly talked about and judged, you begin to wonder if you even want to be part of this environment. Or maybe that’s just me.
That persistent annoying nudge? That is the familiar unfamiliarity of Possibility. My childhood playmate that kept me up at night reading encyclopedias and making lists of things I wanted to be when I grew up and how I could change the world. Now, Possibility is playfully asking: If I’m not being useful here, where can I be useful? What more is there to learn? How can I learn to be more useful? Will my experiences ever be able to help someone that needs it? How useful can I be with the gifts that God has given me?
Let’s be clear, even I am unclear on what my “gifts” are. But I feel that old familiar Possibility calling me into new discomforts to figure them out.
Please keep me in your prayers as I overdramatically ponder this new phase of my life. Whatever that may look like. Whatever faith I’ll need to blindly follow. Whatever naive optimism will surely crush me. Wherever God may lead me may I be faithful enough to follow.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listento you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14