“It’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”
—Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places
I had missed my family so much. My big enormous beautiful family. I moved from Puerto Rico around 3 and a half years ago. I hadn’t seen my family in over a year; last I went to Puerto Rico was summer 2014, but it seems like so long ago. I’ve become a completely different person since then. A lot of things have changed about me, but some have stayed the same. I’ve read many books that have shaped me. I’ve been very disconnected from social media (which is a good thing). I have gotten to know my flaws. I’ve been able to pull my grades up. I’ve started to learn new things and gotten involved with things that now make me the person I am, and I’ve learned to love a lot of more things in life.
Last year in the summer, the questions of the day were: “Do you like it over there?’’ or “How’s school?” Now they differ to questions about my future, like: “What college are you going to?” “What are you going to study?” “How are you going to pay for college?” My response always is… I don’t know.
During my stay in Puerto Rico, we did many activities with my family — which involved things like going to the mall, going out for ice cream, restaurants, small things, but those were the ones that stick with me the most. We laughed so much, created inside jokes, and had just a nice time. At the big holiday parties it wasn’t the same; it was more lonesome, which is rather ironic because at big parties they seem more isolated and small parties weren’t as private.
I spent a lot of time with my younger cousins and my favorite aunts and my grandmother. I stayed in what used to be my old house and stayed in my old room, which was bittersweet. I visited a couple of my middle school friends and gossiped for hours about how our friends were doing.
There weren’t many times where my depression or anxiety kicked in — only once, closer to the last days of my trip when we went on a road trip. I had gotten anxiety because in the mornings it was a stressful task to get ready in a place that is not where you live. That morning I just felt ugly; my self-confidence was nowhere to be found. The entire road trip I stayed quiet and isolated, and my entire family kept hovering and asking what was wrong, but nothing was wrong; it was just a feeling in me.
Sadly, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to the person I spent most of the vacation with, which was another reason why I was sad. Because next time I’ll see them they might not recognize me, or they’ll be so grown up; it’s sad. But I will never forget our laughter at the carnival, the inside jokes that we made this December, my aunt falling in the mud, and the long car rides. Because it’s not what you take from a place, it’s what you leave, and my only hope is that I left a memory, to the people and the place I love.