“Lo que esta ‘pa ti, nadie te lo quita” / Turning 24

Finished collage
Stills from recent life events in the months leading up to my 24th birthday.

Last night I celebrated my 24th birthday in the company of my family. By some metrics, it would be considered a pretty low-key way of commemorating the occasion; especially those Miami metrics that consider anything short of an alcohol-fueled rampage at any of the city’s ritzy bars and nightclubs a bit of a bore.

But even if I didn’t “turn up” as hard as others would’ve in my place, I did take the time to reflect on everything that’s been going on in my life up until now and I must confess: the feelings in response to that reflection are mixed.

The mix is an interesting one, though. It covers the wide gamut of human emotion, featuring everything from frustration and disappointment to resilience and renewed resolve.

The theme which unifies the disparate emotions?

“I’m not at the place I would want to be at this age.” 

The Superman-themed birthday card my mom picked out for me tells me it’s OK if I’m not a superhero because my tights would bunch up. A cute remark, of course, but a poignant one for me which I interpret in a slightly different way.

Maybe it’s because my family isn’t as well-off as I’m sure they’d like to be.

Maybe it’s because Miami is cursed with such a wide (and widening) gap between the ultra rich and the working class; between the lifestyles of those living in Brickell and Edgewater versus those living in Kendall.

Maybe it’s because I’m truly inspired by stories of great individuals that left their mark in their respective fields, from Henry Flagler and Julia Tuttle in city building to Ed Bradley and Don Hewitt in television journalism.

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From top left, clockwise: mother of Miami Julia Tuttle, industrialist Henry Flagler, producer Don Hewitt and journalist Ed Bradley.

I don’t truly know why but I know that that Superman quote rang true for me because in my mind, it’s not OK to not be a superhero.

I want; nay, I need to be a superhero in my own right, excelling to the highest levels of social, creative, romantic, academic and professional prowess.

I have an impending, ’round the clock sense of there being a police checkpoint coming up the road soon; the officers standing by to take me in if I haven’t got a well-paying job, a healthy pool of friends and colleagues and a larger-than-life accomplishment to call my own by the time they pull me over.

I’ve had my fair share of gloomy evenings where the tears flowed freely as I beat myself up mentally for not having made the right moves at the right time; for not being as close to that elusive prowess as I’d like to be.

Peers and mentors are quick to tell me that “everything’s OK” and that “everything comes in due time.” It’s as comforting a notion as it is a paralyzing one; it serves best to quell the self-loathing that rears its ugly head on those lonely nights but is otherwise ill-suited to fomenting the resolve required to make it all happen.

I keep on, though, with genuine excitement about and anticipation of what tomorrow brings as well as a continuous effort to keep bitter and sour emotions at bay. These moments of reflection are key to keeping me in check, but in the long run are very counterproductive when they go on for too long.

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As a newfound 24-year-old youth who refuses to believe that he is his worst critic, the Cuban saying emblazoned on shirts for sale at the Azucar ice cream shop in Little Havana gives me pause. Cheekily, it reads “lo que esta ‘pa ti, nadie to lo quita,” reminding me – and I hope it’s right – that the fruits of my labor mustn’t be too far away.

Thank you to everyone that wished me a happy birthday, and even though I say this all the time but I do really hope to post here more often than not! At least now you have a better idea of the mental roadblocks that keep me from the keyboard at times. 



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