Powerlessness is being an undocumented immigrant.
“Empowered” is the best way to describe me when I was seventeen years old, and when without hesitation I decided to leave home. I left behind both my parents and two younger brothers in the pursuit of a better life for myself, positively convinced that soon after my envisioned success came true they would be better off as well. I was full of life and bravado. I had that “can do” attitude that blesses most kids in their teenage years. I remember no fear but only a sense of the unknown about to be revealed to me, and so I departed with nothing except a little money in my pocket and my own will to overcome anything else that poor cash could not solve along the way.
Power defined means “to be able.” To be able to do the things needed to be done. To be able to personally decide what’s best for us and then move forward with it. To be able. To be.
Today, I am thirty-nine years old and feeling pretty powerless. I was recently involved in a car accident and now I fear the worst. I didn’t exist until I was hit by that vehicle. I was brought into my new reality to be severely scrutinized. No driver license or insurance to speak of, but more importantly, no legal documents to justify my presence in this country exists. More than twenty years—over half of my life—will be officially deemed illegitimate. I did everything possible to become a rather inconspicuous member of society. No arrests to speak of. Not even a jaywalking ticket. But utmost discretion is a sure way to get you noticed over time, and for that, I have very few friends to speak of. I don’t belong to any clubs, and my neighbors surely think I’m aloof. Ironic that all I wanted was a place in life to fit in, but like many undocumented folks merely ended up marginalized by the system, and finally now, just a panic-stricken recluse.
I’m afraid to face the next rung in the wheel of powerlessness. But this has just begun, and the consequences, though long written down in the books, will not be brought upon me without a fight. I only wish I could gather the spirit my seventeen-year-old self had back then. I wish I remembered what it was like to feel empowered by the possibilities and their promises. Now I just wait for the hand of destiny to slap me across the face, hoping its weight will not erase the little determination remaining deep inside of me. Deep inside of me, where it has been waning in strength ever since the first day I realized I had to be extra vigilant and not bring attention to myself, not expect great things, because opportunity needs papers to breath life into your dreams.
Power and powerlessness, yes! I know all too well about that.
Photo credit: Flickr / Fobonacci Blue