Our childhoods shape us and prepare us, not only for our own lives, but for the joys and values we’ll pass on to others.
As told to Dawn Van Osdell
“I split my time between school in the San Francisco Bay Area—Notre Dame de Namur University—and my hometown of Los Angeles. It’s not so different from the way I divided my time when I was a kid: between LA, where I was raised, and Belize, where my dad and extended family live and where I spent whole summers and every Christmas. The closeness of my family, and growing up in two places, made me who I am today, and who I am to the kids I take care of. My childhood prepared me to deal with different kinds of people and to realize I shouldn’t have any expectations of how people should be, act, or live.
My mom, brother, and I moved to LA from Belize when my parents divorced. I was 7 years old. I had several cousins in LA to help ease my transition, but it took me a while to catch on and keep up with the other kids. I remember how Americans phrased things so differently than people did in Belize, how the lingo was so completely new. I was fortunate to have a strong family and community of other Belizean transplants who knew the culture of my small country and helped me adjust to living in such a big, new place. Nonetheless, the change was difficult for me and also for other kids to understand. They didn’t get what it was like to be a part of a separated household spread across two countries. I couldn’t invite them over—we were living in a one-bedroom apartment. I didn’t have the luxury of getting picked up and dropped off in a car—I took a city bus. My clothes didn’t have brand names. I realized you have to ask questions to understand how another person lives. I also learned to not just accept differences, but to expect them.
Today, I babysit for dozens of different families. I don’t have expectations before walking in the door. Sometimes the kids are really shy and other times they are balls of fire—similar to the night and day difference between my brother and me when we were growing up. My parents always struggled to understand why I wasn’t more extroverted like him. I’ve vowed to respect and appreciate people’s differences because it makes us who we are. I have a built-in support system for interacting with kids, no matter their personality: my mom, a single mother and a nanny since she was 18 years old. I call her and say, “Help! What do I do? What works for you?” She always reminds to me try to understand the other side, to have patience, and to be confident.
I’m studying kinesiology, which is the study of human movement. I may be an athletic trainer one day, maybe something else! I’m interning with a chiropractor in LA County, and starting to work with a mom I babysit for who is a yoga teacher for athletes. I’ve also become a doula—inspired by my aunt who is a nurse practitioner— which has given me so much information about what women need during childbirth and what needs to change. There is often a lack of concern over providing a mother and her child with a happy and healthy birth, and fallback from doctors who just want to get the job done. Becoming a doula has introduced me to feminist views, like how women are underestimated just for being female, and the inequalities that still exist between men and women. It’s made me want to speak up for others and for change. I’m able to help by serving as an advocate for low-income families and young mothers with unplanned pregnancies through volunteering at Joy in Birthing while finishing my degree.
Whether it’s the kids I babysit or my friends, I always encourage others to embrace what makes people difference and to try new things. Thinking about the “what-if” will only deter you from doing something that could possibly be wonderfully life changing. For me, even if I fail, I will be happy to know that I at least tried.
Photographs by Kyle Monk