“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in you life.” This has become one of my rules in life—to do what I love, and do work that makes me feel alive and passionate. This defines my job at the Women’s Center for the last 5 years.
And then life and change happened!!!
This was my last week at the Houston Area Women’s Center. I waited a while to publicly announce it because it didn’t feel real. It became real when I walked out of my office on Thursday with a cart full of junk—my personal collection of memories of the last five years!
I remember the day I was introduced to the Women’s Center. I met a woman at an event at the Mexican Consulate who would not shut up about the Women’s Center, it’s mission and how I could get involved. Her name was Concepcion Miranda. Her passion poured out of her like sweat. I remember thinking, “I want some of that.” I went to a volunteer orientation and I was intrigued. I did the volunteer training and I was hooked. I began to volunteer at the Hotline and I fell in love.
I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love doing exciting things that get my blood pumping. Volunteering at the Women’s center Hotline did this for me in a new way. It wasn’t easy listening to the stories of distress, pain and suffering but I felt privileged to be on the other end. Some of the callers had never talked to anyone about their pain. I felt privileged because making that call was probably one of the hardest things that person had to do. I felt privileged because some how some way destiny had chosen me to listen. And no, I wasn’t the greatest hotline advocate but I tried my best. I did everything I could to comfort and to not say the wrong thing. I tried to remember wise words from those who trained me and asked many questions along the way. It was a different kind of adrenaline and I wanted more.
April of 2008, the TV station I was working for filed for bankruptcy and I lost my job. I remember leaving my office angry and going to the Women’s center to volunteer. I figured might as well volunteer as much as I can while I find a new job. Luckily, one of the hotline advocates, Frances, asked for my resume and shared it with the manager of communications. A month later I was hired on as the communications specialist. The decision to take the job came with a significant salary cut. I was broke for a good while but it was the best decision I could have made. I couldn’t let the opportunity to get more adrenaline pass me by. This is how non-profits get you–They don’t directly dig into your pockets but do a damn good job digging into your heart J
After 5 years- 3 ½ months, working with some of the most impactful individuals I will ever know, a number of successful projects and lots of media interviews I decided to let go of some of that adrenaline. There’s a time in life when change is necessary and that time has come for me. The agreement with myself after making the decision was to only give up part of the adrenaline. Like a good junkie, I could never give it all up!!! I’m going back to where it all began, volunteering! When I first started this job I became part of a movement, and in the end the movement became part of me.
The past 5 years have been the most rewarding and humbling of my personal and professional life. I’ve grown not only as a communications professional but also a woman. I will always look back with pride and satisfaction at our accomplishments in the communications department. The projects that hang on the walls, the newspaper covers, the photos, videos, the social media and so much more I cherish. I feel privileged to have worked with committed and selfless individuals who truly make a difference in our community. I was also lucky to work with amazing journalists who made my job more interesting and who took the time to really understand the issues. I’m also thankful for the many friends who supported the cause and got involved one way or another. I’m sure some got sick of my posts in social media but I’m thankful for those who didn’t, decided to take action and supported me.
Survivors of domestic and sexual violence were the fuel that kept the adrenaline alive. Every interaction I had with a survivor inspired me to do more and kept me motivated. Listening to survivor stories was one of the hardest parts of the job but also my favorite. It is always humbling to listen to their struggles, and extraordinary ways of survival. I feel privileged to know Amelia, a 65-year-old woman from Honduras whose only daughter was stabbed to death by her ex in February of 2008. Amelia has been caring for her daughter’s two young boys since. Amelia speaks no English, has no car but yet the boys have never missed a doctor’s appointment or been late to school. She is one of the most caring individuals I’ve ever met- so brave, so human, so beautiful. She always says, “I pray for you because you are like one of my angels.” She has no idea she is my angel!
During my time at the Women’s Center I also had the opportunity to visit survivors at the Hospital. Most survivors I visited had been raped. Most knew the person who raped them. Most were in the hospital room alone. Most were women ranging from 13 years old to 74. Some cried. Others didn’t. Some didn’t want to see me. Others didn’t want me to leave. Some reached out for a hug. Others said they couldn’t stand to be touched. Some couldn’t remember what happened. Others wished they could forget. All kept me grounded, connected and reminded me why the work is important. They will always be my inspiration. For this, I’m thankful
My next adventure begins this Monday at Houston Community College. I will be supporting special projects and communications efforts. Why HCC? Because education is something I love.
Mas Gracias/More thanks
There are individuals that touched my life in a very special way while at the Women’s Center and I will always consider them part of my family
They are extraordinary
Concepcion – I’m so happy I met you at the Mexican Consulate! The passion I saw in you that day continues to inspire me today. I began to truly understand feminism because of you. Thank you for your friendship, honesty and unwavering support.
Frances – thank you for sharing my resume and for saying really nice things about me. I will never forget you were the first person at the Women’s Center who believed I could!
Kelly B- Thank you for giving me a chance, for not keeping me in a box and for saying yes to some of my crazy ideas! You will always be a role model—not only for your greatness as a manager but also for your awesomeness as a Mom! Thank you for your friendship, honest advice and your witty humor!
Mamta- you are one of the most compassionate and beautiful human beings I’ve ever met. Your friendship came into my life in the perfect moment. I thank the universe for your presence and for allowing me to be part of your life. You are my light.
Pam- you are the MOST fabulous woman I know. I remember thinking after listening to your presentation during my volunteer training, “I want to be her friend.” Your spirit fills any room you walked into and I will miss that terribly. Thank you for your guidance, brutal honesty and friendship.
Sonia- you are walking diplomacy!!! I’ve learned the importance of diplomacy by observing you. I learned so much from you and appreciate your listening ear. Thank you for your support, saying no and then yes to my constant media requests and for always knowing what to say!
Cely- you are one super woman! I admire you not only as a professional but also as mother. Thank you for being the greatest listening ear and a good friend. I appreciate all your support, guidance and friendship.
Cristina- I feel so lucky my first supervising experience was with you. Thank you for being one of the most professional individuals I know and for being such a great teammate during the ups and downs. I’m so happy about the new chapter in your life and I cannot wait to see what’s ahead for you.
Letty- you are one of my favorite media reps ever!! Thank you for never being afraid to saying yes to my unexpected media requests and for always rocking the interviews. You are an amazing counselor, feminist and a hella twitterer! Café very soon!
Isabel- the work you do with children and youth is admirable. Thank you for always being supportive and being one of the best social media advocates! I admire your spirit and genuine personality. Thank you for being you!!
Estela- you were one of my favorite hotline advocate trainers when I became a volunteer. I really appreciate your willingness to always listen and provide feedback. You are one of the sweetest women I know. Thank you for always being interested in what was “new” with my little man and me.
Francisco- You are the shit and I mean that in the best way possible! Thank you for always being real. I admire your work as a counselor and hope you continue touching lives like you did at the Women’s Center. Thank you for your awesome friendship!
David- I will miss your dry sense of humor, funny messages during long meetings and IT expertise. Thank your for understanding not everyone (me) is a techie and for having tolerance for my ignorance :)
Luke- I will always consider you HAWC family even if you left a few years ago!! You were my first introduction to male feminism. It was refreshing to talk to male who understood the movement and the importance of males being part of it. Thank you for not being afraid of showing a different kind of man and for speaking up.