“I had come a long way from the child who was afraid to ask where she came from! I felt empowered and inspired.”
I have always been curious about my ancestry. When I was a young child, I even have memories of asking my dad about his deceased twin brother. I found it fascinating that there could be another “copy” of my favorite person in the world. Even more interesting to me, was the idea that my dad was adopted. It fueled me to continue asking questions, and finding out more. Where we had me and my family come from?
When I asked, “What’s our nationality?”, he would simply reply by asking back “how do you feel today?”. When I said, “Jamaican”, he would reply, “Fine, then we are Jamaican.” I found it difficult to get answers about my grandparents, and eventually I was hesitant to ask. I felt guilty about bringing it up. Would my question be met with excitement or disappointment at the limited answers he could provide me?
This year, things shifted. I had a heart-to-heart discussion with a friend, during which I realized that I had every right to be curious about my heritage! Sure, they were my father’s parents, but they were also My grandparents. My lineage. Why shouldn’t I try to find them? I became inspired; I was on the hunt! I realized that it wasn’t my fault for asking these questions as a child. As someone who has been adopted, it is understandable that he had fears of rejection, and this had nothing to do with me! After some discussions, eventually I convinced that a search for his birth mother would be beneficial to us all, and he became just as excited as I was about finding her!
And so the search began. The last place he knew of my grandmother living happened to be the next town over from where I worked. My father and I searched through Ancestry.com. We tried government archives. We took to the yellowpages. We were on a mission. Eventually, it became more about “being on a mission” to discover more about our family’s past, and less about the end result of if we found her or not. I had come a long way from the child who was afraid to ask where she came from! I felt empowered and inspired.
After seemingly endless effort, it turns out that my grandma is a tough woman to find. I haven’t found her yet, but in a way, the gift she unknowingly gave me was the search for her itself. Knowing that I could search. I was finally allowing myself to seek illumination to the mystery of my heritage! By the end of the journey, this search had also created another dimension of the bond between me and my father that I will always cherish. Through the process of trying to find my grandmother, I learned about myself and my power to seek the answers I desire. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Have you ever felt that you are an alien in your own skin? That your life is happening around you, but you are not part of it? That some invisible force has the remote control of your life? These feelings described my life in October 2010.
I was working in my hometown of Budapest, Hungary in corporate real estate. I had family and friends around me and my life seemed “normal”. I was full of dreams – the prosperous career, the happy family life, the marriage-leaning relationship – of my future. A list waiting to be checked. But as I looked around everything else was happening just not what I dreamed about. Instead of my rainbow color dreams grey shadows held onto me. I felt like a stranger in my skin, living someone else’s life. I drifted through days, did my job automatically, and my mind wandered miles away. I wasn’t fully present in my life. I was 26, and crying in the shower before work each morning. I saw my future, and finally something inside me snapped. I couldn’t keep up the charade any longer! I finally said “enough!” I applied for a cultural exchange program and quit my corporate job. I left the country where I was born and raised and I turned my life upside-down. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. In September 2011, I started a new chapter when I moved to California as an au-pair to take care of two amazing kids. I realized that my path was within me all along, and I had created my own path to freedom. I am finally living the life I had imagined for years. Since then, there has been no turning back.
There are times while on this planet when we are truly tested. Whether it is with love, family, finances, career or health, each of us has periods of in life where we are forced to dig deep. Courage, hope and joy oppose fear, despair and anger. These times create us, define us and bring us clarity. For the past year, I have been quietly battling cervical cancer. The diagnosis was surprising, frightening and shattered my world. My normally stellar health was no longer to be taken for granted. This, coming from a person who ate well, exercised and was actually ON the cover of Health Magazine!
Last Summer, I underwent a radical hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation in hopes of eradicating my very rare and aggressive strain. Fortunately, I had amazing doctors and a magnificent support system with family and friends. Woefully, the cancer has barged its way back in – this time attacking my ovaries.
My doctors have used the term ‘outlier’ to describe my case, as I do not fit any sort of profile for this to happen to me. Sometimes there is no reason. But if my experience can somehow help others, that gives me a sense of solace amongst the chaos. I will surely tell you that the profound love, support and the coming together of friends and family is lighting me up from within. Basically recovered from a second surgery, I am in the midst of chemo once again.
In our busy lives, it is too easy to put everyone else’s needs before our own. I encourage all women to take time to check in with themselves and get regular screenings. The recommended time frame is now every two years. THAT was too much time.
As a mom to two little ones, a wife to a loving husband, a daughter and sister…as a writer and actress who’s voice is still strong, I will fight this fiercely.