Headlines Serve as Reminders

It’s been about a year since I returned from Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. A year since I have walked back and forth across the United States and Mexico border. A year since I walked along the walk and read the words the people of Nogales had painted on it. A year since I went and ate meals next to people who had gone through America’s immigration system. A year since I have talked to the people who these immigration laws effect. The week I spent traveling between these two magical Nogales’ was the week I had my eyes opened. It was the time I saw the humans which lie at the center of the immigration debate throughout our country.

And now I’m home. Not only am I home, but I am a millennial whose stuck on social media at a time where immigration headlines have filled my different timelines. Story after story have come to top lists. Stories describing children being taken from their families at the border, highlights of dehumanizing practices being pushed forward, and the cases of immigrants being given a voice in some cases and finally being able to tell their stories.

Then I imagined what it would mean for this family of five to risk it all and cross and what if it went wrong? What would happen to them with the way our immigration system is right now? Santiago and his two siblings would stripped from their parents and taken to some strange home as their parents were placed in a detention center and tried as criminals. Each of the children would have no idea what would be going on. A foreign language would surround them and they would be forced into a legal system that most adults in America can’t understand let alone a five year old from a foreign country would be able to comprehend. Their worlds would each be turned upside down and inside out. That blissful unawareness which Santiago, Juan Armando and Ajalen were able to epitomize in the comedor would evaporate. The smiles would cease to exist as their family crumbled and their fate became uncertain.

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The Mexican immigration issue is easy for people to debate in New York. Or maybe Connecticut. Iowa. Oregon. Even Washington D.C., because they’re not on the border. People are able to read these headlines or these stories and think, “Oh that’s awful” and yet still feel a bit of detachment because you don’t know these families . . . these parents, these kids. However, they are real people with their own genuine stories. The American justice system when it comes to Mexican immigration has systematically become dehumanized through multiple initiatives such as the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

The fight against dehumanization of Mexican immigrants and the debate surrounding them has become paramount. Each time a headline like the ones I have mentioned and linked come across my social media or give me a CNN notification, I think of the people I met in Nogales and I remember the human entity which lies in the center of the immigration issue. Not everyone has had that opportunity to meet someone who has been directly effected by America’s immigration policies. Yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t humanize the discussion. Remember when you read that headline that isn’t just people in general being separated or going through hardships. Individual families, individual children are suffering because of our government’s practices. It isn’t just somewhere out there where these problems are coming to light. Our own border is where these injustices are taken place. Don’t let yourself stay distant from our countries’ problems. Remember the stories I have shared with you through my Nogales blogs. Remember Santiago, Juan Armando and Ajalen. Humanize this issue which continues to break down throughout our country’s rhetoric and focus
 on what it’s really about . . . the people and their stories.

A Goodbye Letter to My Sport

Dear Volleyball,

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On November 17th, I played my last volleyball game of my career. I took off the number 13, slid off my kneepads and unlaced my volleyball shoes for the last time. It’s been just over a month since the game. At first, I don’t think I really processed it. I don’t think I let myself process it. For my entire life, you have been the thing that has been consistent. No matter what was going on in my life you were there. You have been with me through the awkward middle school years, through the coaches who made me cry, through the club changes, through the dreaded high school years–you were always there.

And now, you’re not. I never really thought this day would come. Part of me, I guess, knew that I could only play volleyball for so long. I just never realized what it would mean to be done. Now I sit here, over a month after my last game, and I think about all the memories you have given me.

I think about middle school volleyball. I remember having the opportunity to represent my school for the first time and how happy it made me to put on the navy and white. I’m smiling now, thinking about the knee high socks and ribbons we would tie on backpacks. I think about club seasons. I remember winning my first national qualifier, competing at the Open level, traveling to states and cities I never thought I’d see. I think about high school where my teams were able to accomplish so much in the name of our school. I think about college–about signing to Loyola, learning what it really meant to be a student-athlete and competing at the Division I level.

The memories go on and on, but most of all I remember my teams. I remember the girls who showed up with me everyday, the girls who were next to me on the line as we ran, the girls who would show up on those two a days. All these good times, all these memories which stand out in my head are thanks to you. What would I have to remember without you? School? Classes I took? Now I remember winning, competing and challenging myself next to my closest friends. That’s all because of you. I can’t even imagine where I would be without you. I wouldn’t be who I am, I wouldn’t have learned what I have, and I wouldn’t have this well of experiences to pull from for the rest of my life.

So, volleyball, thank you. Thank you for making me, me. I’m going to miss you. More than you know. But I know I’ll be alright without you, because you have helped me grow up in ways I didn’t know I needed to.

Thank you, and goodbye.