I grew up in the small town of Prescott, Ariz. There, it goes without saying, I was estranged.
Growing up a queer, artistic, brown boy in a cis, conservative, white-dominated environment led to me to question every normality. I couldn’t comprehend why certain, hollow behaviors were compulsory. I wasn’t afraid of being deviant, but opposing thoughts were rarely accepted in this town.
I am an immigrant of Mexico, moving to the U.S. right before my second birthday. Immigrating was my first lesson in hard work.
Despite the current attitudes of our administration, I remain eternally grateful to my parents for making the move. Think about it: You gather your whole life in a few suitcases, leave your family and friends whom you’ve grown up alongside, forget all you’ve accomplished up until now to move to a place you’ve only ever heard about. There, a language is spoken that you barely know. It’s easy to say you could, but think about that first moment when you unpack the last suitcase in your new home. What now?
My mother has shared stories with me of the first year post move. She knew not a soul, spoke not a pinch of English, nor was travel savvy enough to leave the house. She was terrified. I’ve been told of the times she felt helpless and lost, tears streaming down her face, unsure of her decision. She recounted the wave of motivation that would halt her doubt while looking down at my brother and my infantile face during that period.
Staying was my first lesson in steadfastness.
As I grew, my emotions developed enough for me to realize I was extraordinary. I was always aware of my queer identity — playing with my cousin’s dolls, gaga-ing over cute boys during recess and having a feminine quality to my speech.
While this was my first lesson in love, it was also a lesson in displacement.
I learned the stigma attached to my given psyche around age 10 — it’s only natural to recoil from things that hurt you. But, again, I would find myself not asking why I was or how I was, but why I wasn’t praised for it.
Through this alienation I found myself turning to nature. The southwest offers the most scenic moments in the world: skies burning red that paralleled my passion towardsart, pine trees soaring high grounded by their roots and quiet deserts rumbling with a whole world invisible to a glancing eye. My personal reflection was a daily occurrence. I became obsessed with my emotions — I still am. My surroundings offered me a home and acceptance I didn’t receive otherwise.
Being alone in nature was a lesson in humility.
These natural skyscrapers have been here ages before I have and will remain ages after I no longer am. There’s a mountain called Thumb Butte in Prescott. It’s probably the most identifying feature of the town — a rocky protrusion overseeing the neighborhoods and national forest. I would hike to the top with my dad every so often — it became a tradition on Christmas Day. The most peace I ever felt in that town was at the top of the rock, looking onto the city and feeling so detached but connected to the world at the same time.
Calmly and gradually, I realized the greater arc of my life required I leave this small southwestern town. It was the culmination of these lessons, made me hungry for experiences in the rest of the world. There were sunsets elsewhere that would rival this town’s. There were people in distant cities that would help me build a supportive community around myself. I was ready to leave.
This was my first lesson in listening to and trusting my own intuition.
I had never been to New York City before I moved here, but that never scared me — my parents did it, right? It’s here I’ve been able to blossom into my true self without a single negative thought tripping me up along the way.
In this newfound home there are new, challenging lessons presented to me every day. I’m constantly discovering a new perspective or aspect of myself that had previously been hidden. I feel more confident than ever to face the lessons coming my way.