Conversations with My Dad – Turning 30

Birthday

I am finally 30 years-old. I feel great.

My husband, Josh, and I were having a night time picnic under the stars on my birthday, when I got a call from my Dad. I couldn’t remember the last time my biological father ever wished me a Happy Birthday. I looked over to Josh and he said, “Go for it honey, pick it up.”

He missed just about every single birthday, Christmas, school play, parent-teacher conference, and major milestone in my life. So, it came as a complete surprise when he called me.

“Hey Dad,” I said.

It didn’t take long to realize that he wasn’t calling to wish me a Happy Birthday. Josh was looking at me eagerly, and I shook my head at him. I smiled at Josh reassuringly.

My Dad was calling to see if I had some time to help him with a job application, and it made me smile knowing that he was still looking around on his own. Yes, of course I’d love to. I listened to the excitement in his voice, brimming full of hope at any opportunity to better himself. My heart was warm for him.

After I got off the phone, I grinned at Josh and said, “He was so close, right?!” I wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t know it was my 30th birthday. I wasn’t hurt like I use to be when I was little. Instead I felt this wonderful sense of gratitude that my universe gifted me with the opportunity to hear from him that night. He is healthy, he is hopeful, and he is living his life to the best of his abilities.

As I leaned into Josh and laid there looking at the stars, I realized how far I’ve come in my own personal journey. I held onto so much of the pain and disappointment of my childhood and felt crippled by my past. It prevented me from being able to love and trust those who were close to me. I’m so glad that I’ve had such supportive friends, family, and mentors who have helped guide me to where I am today. And now wanting to reach out to others who need the same.

I met with my Dad this morning to help him with his online job application. At one point I playfully leaned over to him and asked, “Dad, do you know what’s in the month of July?” I couldn’t help but poke fun while he started thinking. Then it clicked — he laughed and said, “Your birthday is on the 22nd!”

I laughed at him and said, “Noooo… it was a couple of days ago… but you did call me that night.”

I asked what he thought about my turning 30, and his response was, “Wow… When do you graduate?!” It felt so good to sit there and create new memories together, and see him continuing to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

I shared with him that I had visited Grandma’s grave on my birthday. I was at her memorial service, but never managed to visit her grave until a couple of days ago. There were still things that went unsaid between us before she passed — her agony in not knowing my father’s (her son’s) fate, and the relationship we had together. It was a very difficult time for everyone. I wanted to feel closer to her in the place that she knew she would rest while she was still alive. As I combed through the graves of others laid to rest, I found myself talking out loud to her.

“I love you. I am sorry for the pain that you experienced while you were still here. I know you understand my heart now, and what I was trying to do. He will be okay. We will be okay.”

I have learned a lot about life, love, acceptance, letting go, and appreciating what we have today. Every day is a challenge, every day is a new day. As I shared all of this with my Dad, I asked him what he thought about the afterlife. He grinned at me and said, “We’ll find out someday, won’t we?”

Yes. Yes, we will. Our bodies will die, but our minds and spirits won’t. This life is a gift and I am so grateful for all of it — the good and the bad. Bring on the 30’s!!! I’m looking forward to continuing the journey and following my heart.

Until next time…

Hugs,

Diana

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Little Souls

 

Hanging out and talking

Hanging out and talking

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my encounters with some of the children in Kaka’ako and the frustration of not being able to help. A lot has happened since then.

It seems like my universe has been throwing words and signs of caution as I continue to visit Kaka’ako. For a variety of reasons, my friends and family have shared their concerns for my safety. I understand. The most recent news of a Hawai`i legislator being a “victim of ‘gang-style’ attack” is reason to be concerned — I get that. But I feel an incredible tug to visit the kids I have gotten to know in the area.

I drove through Kaka’ako this morning with my trunk full of books, donated by a friend from Read Aloud America. Instead of parking in my usual spot, I decided to drive into the back area so I could unload the books closer to their tents. A couple of kids recognized me, so I decided to pull over onto the side of the road. As I passed out the books, I noticed a little boy I hadn’t seen before. He had a slender frame, dark tanned skin, and beautiful little eyes that sparkled with curiosity. I asked if he would like to have some books to read, and he immediately crawled up into the back of my SUV and started to dig through the pile. I smiled.

After the older kids had walked off, it was just my new little friend and I sitting in the back of my SUV.  I learned that he was 4 years-old, loved to eat candy, knew his ABCs, and wanted to go to school. Our conversation was interrupted when a tent close-by erupted with shouting. I looked over towards the tent and saw a woman yelling at a younger girl. I asked my little friend if he knew who they were.

“That’s my mom and my sister.”

I felt for his sister. She slouched into her chair, trying hard to keep her tears in, trying desperately not to fight back even with her mother yelling, spitting, and pushing her around.

I looked over at this beautiful little soul sitting next to me and said, “I’m sorry little guy.”

I asked if he knew where his father was, and he responded, “He’s in jail.”

Picking books to read

Picking books to read

My heart sank. I could see at this point that the argument and fighting was escalating fast so I decided to take the boy towards another tent where his friends were. As I ushered him towards another tent, a law enforcement vehicle drove straight towards the mother and daughter. I let go of the little boy’s hand and walked towards my car and the officer who had stepped out. The mother and daughter who had been fighting simmered down really fast, and then I realized I was in trouble.

I approached the officer and his first question was: Is this your car?

I answered… Yes, yes it is. I’m just here to pass out books to the kids.

The conversation that followed happened so fast. I wasn’t supposed to be parked on that street. I understood this. And at the same time I had a good reason for it… I couldn’t carry three boxes of books by myself, and thought parking on the side of the street would be fine. I wasn’t going to fight him. If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong… even if I had good intentions.

He asked for my license and registration. As I reached into the car to get my documentation, I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t believe you’re getting in trouble for trying to help these kids… it’s okay… it’s fine…” From the corner of my eye, I could see the mother and daughter sitting quietly in their tent and the little boy standing outside. How ironic.

I shook my head at the circumstances, took a deep breath, and faced the officer with my documentation. He told me that my parking there was only contributing more to the chaos and lawlessness of this area. I understood where he was coming from. I wasn’t upset or angry with him. He was doing his job and having to do these rounds everyday.

Then I started saying what came to my mind…

“I’m sorry… It’s just that my dad was homeless for two years and I still haven’t gotten over it.”

I’m not even sure what I meant by that when I said it to the officer. I just wanted him to know that I was there because of something deeper inside of me. A life experience that was far more meaningful and thoughtful than a parking mishap. I looked into his eyes and stood there quietly for a second. And then I apologized again. This kid over there has no good role models from what I can see. I’ve been spending the past half an hour reading to him and getting him excited about learning to form words.

Then the officer said, “Do you realize how dangerous this place can be?” He went on to explain how assaults and rapes are a growing concern in the area. I acknowledged his concerns. In some quiet way, my universe is gently asking me to be more mindful and careful with how I spend my time in the area. I recognize that there are risks to everything in life. I know that what I’m doing by approaching individuals with substance abuse and mental illness means that I take on a certain level of risk. At the same time I know that I have to trust my instincts and I don’t want to stop approaching them. If anything, I have plans to bridge my legal studies with my homeless outreach through existing organizations in our community so that I am safer.

And yet I know that the “real help” and opportunities for growth happen when I’m out there as an individual, just somebody who cares and wants others to know that I do. These kids are especially hungry for love and attention. They are bored. They are beaten. They witness everything that we see in the news. And yet they are so tenderhearted. I want to help them somehow. I have ideas and am looking forward to forming them.

For now, my heart goes out to the children there. They need more than just books, toys, used clothing, and food. They need love, consistency, stability, role models, stable parents, a home that provides them the security to branch out and discover themselves and the world. I want so much more for them. I think we can figure this out together.

Hugs,

Diana

 

Youth in Kaka’ako

Hands of the youth in Kaka'ako.

Hands of the youth in Kaka’ako.

I spent most of this week in Kaka’ako getting to know more families and individuals in the area. I feel emotionally drained and wish I could do more for the kids there. This morning was particularly hard because one of the little girls I came across had actually been at the homeless shelter four years ago… Her hair was still wild, her eyes bright as ever, and she reached out to me with her arms wide open like she had done when I first met her at the shelter. I’m not sure why she’s on the streets now… *sigh*

I wish I could do more for them. I’m still trying to figure out what/if I can do anything. In the couple of hours I was there, a woman had overdosed just three tents away from the family I was visiting. The woman’s boyfriend was holding their infant daughter in his arms, and came out of the tent asking for a cellphone to call the police. The fire department arrived within minutes and the paramedics arrived shortly after… It all happened so fast.

I worry about the children there. They’ve been so kind to me and would share their street wisdom to “keep me safe.” Many of the little ones warned me to stay away from certain areas. I appreciate them…

It has been a long week… physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The journey continues…

Hugs,

Diana

Beating All Odds – “Hobo Bob”

Myself, Hobo Bob, and Theresa

Myself, Hobo Bob, and Theresa

For the readers who have been following along from the beginning of my entries, you may recall the experiences I mentioned of when I was a little girl living in Honolulu. I was about 8 years-old and my parents were separated at the time. My days were spent rollerblading the streets of Waikiki and talking to people I didn’t know. I befriended a few individuals who were living on the streets, specifically one man who sat in front of the old Fun Factory by Lewers Street.

I met that man today. Over 20 years later. His name is “Hobo Bob.”

Early this morning, I was catching up with my dad and decided to swing by Ala Moana Beach Park before heading to a doctor’s appointment. Something was pulling me in that direction and as I drove up to the Waikiki Yacht Club entrance, I saw a couple sitting on the corner under their tent. They were a sign. I pulled over and parked my car along the street and slowly walked over to them.

I smiled… made eye contact… waved… and there he was, smiling back at me with his piercing blue eyes. God, he looked so familiar. He introduced himself as “Hobo Bob,” and asked for a cigarette. I apologized and said I didn’t smoke… because it was too expensive. Okay, so that’s a half-truth. I don’t smoke because I don’t like cigarettes. But he didn’t have to know that.

I took a few more steps towards him and shared that I have something else he might like. I lowered my backpack onto a dry patch of grass next to him and his partner, Theresa. Small talk. People oftentimes wonder how I manage to interact with complete strangers. I really just let them initiate by either saying hello or looking into my eyes. I’d like to think I have a pretty good sense of people if I can see their eyes. His were good. They felt familiar and comfortable. I could feel that he was good. So were hers.

I showed them one of the bracelets and explained what they were for, and one thing led to another and I told him the story about my dad who had been living on the streets for a couple of years. His eyes lit up and he said he knew who I was talking about. He seemed intrigued, surprised, and somewhat in disbelief that I was his daughter. Just to confirm that we were talking about the same person, I pulled out my phone to show him photographs of my dad. Yes. Yes. Yes. That was him.

The photograph I showed to Hobo Bob.

The photograph I showed to Hobo Bob.

Hobo Bob had interacted with my dad a few times. He always tried to give him some food, asked if he needed help… anything. The midday sun was shining so bright on Hobo Bob’s face. I could see the tears forming in his eyes and he got all quiet. Then he looked up at me and said, “It is a pleasure to meet the daughter of that man… thank you.” Another circle came together today.

We spent a lot of time talking about my dad, and I wanted to learn more about Hobo Bob’s story. It turns out he had been in and out of homelessness for nearly 30 years. He is a Vietnam veteran and is well-known in the homeless community. Shortly after learning how “connected” we were through my dad and our mutual experiences, I mentioned that I had walked these streets as a little girl and passed out change  and McDonald’s cheeseburgers to one man in particular who would always sit near the Waikiki Fun Factor and in front of McDonald’s across from the Red Lobster in Waikiki. He had a beard.

It couldn’t be… could it? 

Hobo Bob started going through his past… I could see he was struggling to sift through all the memories and faces he had seen. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, over a million faces… certainly we couldn’t remember any one specific encounter. I tossed out obscure details from my memory of that time in my life. Rollerblading. Firecrackers. Policemen in the area. The laser tag game room. Then he said something.

“Do you remember those parrots?”

Y-E-S! I remember those parrots! Those beautiful phoenix-like creatures that I could never afford to hold. There was a woman who owned a whole family of those parrots, and I remember seeing them right next to my friend who lived on the streets.

There was no other person during that time with a beard like his. And Theresa confirmed it. “He has always kept this beard.” What are the odds that I would come across the man who I reached out to over 20 years ago, and learn that he had also tried to help my dad? I can’t make this stuff up even if I tried. Somedays, I wake up and have to laugh at the incredible sense of my humor that my maker/creator has for me. I am so grateful for the never-ending synchronicity… and the constant reminder that this is what I was meant to do.

Almost two hours had passed by and I knew I had to leave to make my doctor’s appointment, so I quickly made sure to capture their portrait using the Impossible Film, and had them share one word to describe their experiences on the streets. Dicodami (“Dichotomy”). Tremendes (“Tremendous”).

Words to describe their

Words to describe their “Homeless Paradise” experience.

As we were getting ready for me to leave, Hobo Bob asked for us to take a quick photograph together. Our first selfie. He said, “Now you can show this photograph to any homeless person you walk up to.. you show them.. they know Hobo Bob and you will be protected. They can’t mess with you now.” 

I thanked him and gave him a hug. I told him I would be back… he can count on me coming back. As I drove off and looked over at them sitting just as they were when I arrived, I marveled at how beautiful life could be. These heart-to-heart moments… if there is one thing that has not changed since the first and last time I saw Hobo Bob, it’s the feeling of this raw human connection that has no end. It’s like the bridge to the divine, when every worldly “thing” strips away and we see each other’s beautiful soul. I live for this. I love for this. And I would die to protect this.

The journey continues… I’ll be back for you Hobo Bob and Theresa.

Hugs,

Diana

‘Ohana and Kaka’ako

Sam resting in a friend's makeshift shelter in Kaka'ako.

Sam resting in a friend’s makeshift shelter in Kaka’ako.

Some days my Creator/God/Universe seems to speak louder than others. Today has been one of those days. I finished my last law school examination for the semester this morning. I knew exactly where I wanted to be. Kaka’ako. Just last week, I was in Kaka’ako for a Spring Symposium on Homelessness and Policy Change, hosted by the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Partnership for Social Justice. I was invited to speak and share my candid experiences on trying to assist my father, and the project that I have been working on. It is such a peculiar feeling driving up to a location and passing rows and rows of tents filled with children and families without homes, and then parking in front of them to walk over to an auditorium so I can speak about their social condition.

It was a privilege to be able to share our story, their story. At the same time, I knew I had to drive away that night and I wouldn’t be able to reach out to anyone. So, I’m glad that I was able to spend some time getting to know the families in Kaka’ako again.

Capturing the quiet moment before the JABSOM Spring Symposium on Homelessness and Policy Change.

Capturing the quiet moment before the JABSOM Spring Symposium on Homelessness and Policy Change.

On the drive to Kaka’ako, I thought about Mother’s Day… my mother. And I know that this blog has largely been focused on my father, but I continued to think about the woman who carried me into this world. Although I don’t have a relationship with my mother today, I know that we both love each other. I follow her advice to “do what makes me happy,” and hear her words of support and encouragement. Wherever she is today, I know that she is proud of me and, “as long as you’re happy, I am happy.”

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about her smile, the shape of her eyes when she laughs, the way our noses crinkle the same way. My Creator/God/Universe must have known that a part of me was longing for my mother this morning because I felt her energy through a woman named “Nani.”

Nani has been sober for a number of years and is currently “in transition,” as she applies for jobs and continues her education/training for better employment opportunities. She is the “Aunty of Kaka’ako” from what I gathered. Humble, focused, caring, and somewhat of a watchdog for the kids in the area. With three children of her own, she prioritizes their education and makes damn sure that the other kids go to school, too. But she also recognizes that she can’t be a parent to all of them, and at some point, the parents need to step up and take responsibility.

My mother was actually the opposite of Nani, but Nani said something to me that really resonated with me this morning. “You are doing what your parents never did for you. You took a different path and you are prioritizing your kids. That’s what I am doing and I am not going to be here forever. By forgiving your parents and me forgiving mine, we make things pono.”

Nani and her close friend looking contemplating the best word to describe their portrait in the polaroid.

Nani and her close friend looking contemplating the best word to describe their portrait in the polaroid.

Life is about making things “pono.” I completely agree with her philosophy and approach in life. Nani’s focus and determination is infectious… even to me. She is a great example of someone who is on the streets due to economic circumstances, and intends to get a better paying job so that she can have a better living situation. In her own words, she said that Kaka’ako is a village. People do help each other out, try to maintain respect and civility, but things can get out of line just like anywhere else. She tries really hard to “keep the peace” and help the children and teenagers, so they don’t run astray. I admire her. And I know I will be seeing more of her when I go back later this week.

As I drove back home, I thought about the interconnectedness of life again. This continuous theme of cause and effect — the people in my life and how our paths cross in ways that magnifies/crystallizes the experience of living. Maybe it’s because I seek it out. Call it an encampment, an eye-sore, a public nuisance, a village, or whatever you want… but, I know that Aunty Nani sees it as family. They’re all families trying to survive.

Amazingly, I checked my inbox right before I started writing this post and received an e-mail from an ongoing supporter of my Kickstarter project. Over the past few months we exchanged a number of e-mails and he shared a bit of his own personal story and dedication for social change. I was touched when he shared that one of his daughters wanted to get a tattoo of the Hawaiian word for family (‘ohana) as a way to remember her ailing grandfather, who has since passed away. It turns out that three of his six daughters decided to get the same tattoo to honor him by.

Again… the interconnectedness and theme of family is so strong here. In the e-mail, he mentioned the part about “Lilo explaining to Stitch that ‘ohana means family and although theirs may be tiny and broken, it is still good.” This resonates with me for a number of reasons. First, because I felt the same way as a child. Second, because that quote was referenced during my Kickstarter campaign when ‘Ohana Health Plan helped to support my project. Life is so intriguing when you look for the connections and today’s experiences continue to reaffirm my path.

With the permission from my friend from Canada, here is a photograph of the tattoo that three of his daughters got together in honor of their late grandfather.

With the permission from my friend from Canada, here is a photograph of the tattoo that three of his daughters got together in honor of their late grandfather.

Thanks for reading… Looking forward to sharing more as I continue the journey.

Hugs,

Diana

A Time to Rest

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.” – Wallace Stegner

I’m in the middle of finals week at law school, but I wanted to take a break to share what has been going on in our world. As the legislative session comes to an end, I am reminded of how public policy shapes and impacts our everyday lives. I had a conversation with my dad a couple of weeks ago about the “criminalization of homelessness,” and I have to say that I agree with his position on this issue. Rarely do we hear from the individuals who directly experienced homelessness and suffered from mental illness. I am so proud of him and his ability to articulate how these laws impact the homeless. The homeless are human. It is so important not to forget that.

I was at Costco this past weekend and ran into my former landlords. They ran up to my husband and I, smiling and waving at us with their two daughters. It was great to see them and I was surprised when they brought up the photo essay that was published last month. The wife shared how her view of the homeless changed because of what she read and the dramatic changes she saw in my dad after he was able to get treatment. God, I live to hear that… truly. It made me teary-eyed hearing her reaction. It’s this kind of support and feedback that reaffirms my path in reaching out to the homeless. And I am even more grateful for the fact that my dad is still doing well today.

I’ve been keeping a record of all the people who have e-mailed and shared their own stories of loved ones on the streets/forests/beaches of Hawai`i and am looking forward to finding them. I do believe that in every person is a soul and being that deserves respect. They may not have made the best decisions in life, or even be in a physical/mental position to make good decisions… but, they are human. Thank you to everyone for continuing to follow the journey. See you after Finals Week!

Big hugs,

Diana

The Road to Recovery

I know many readers are curious to know how my father is doing. I have to admit that like everything else in life, there are ups and downs but I’m still glad that he’s doing better. I recorded some of our conversations and wanted to share one with you. Up until now, a lot of what has been shared in this blog have been my own personal experiences of seeing my father go through life as a homeless person. I was able to get permission from him to share this one, so people can have a more intimate understanding of the kind of progress a person can make when on treatment.

He mentions that we all have problems… we all issues in life to resolve. Everybody does something wrong in their life. He is right. Part of the human experience is to suffer and struggle. I am amazed to see his progress in such a short amount of time. I can imagine how many others who are mentally ill have thought the same thing about taking medication. Why do I need this? If I feel better, why do I have to keep taking it?

As a society we seem to attribute mental illness as a sign of weakness and deficiency. There is something gravely wrong with this line of thinking. I recently had lunch with a former co-worker and shared with her the changes that have occurred in both my father’s life and my own. I half-heartedly told her that I probably needed counseling as much as my father did when all of this was happening. It’s true. I did. And I still do. Trying to come to terms with the emotional and mental stress and trauma of the past is not easy. We relive it in cycles, sometimes unconsciously. At the same time we want to be “stronger than that.” Not wanting the assistance because out of stubborn determination we don’t want to accept that there might actually be something wrong. I’ve definitely been there.

But when I recall all of the hardships and suffering that he and I both shared (separately and together) in the past years… including my own childhood… I recognize that I have come this far because I had the good counseling from close friends, family, therapists, teachers, colleagues, and people who simply cared. It’s nobody’s responsibility to “fix” us, but it’s definitely our responsibility to each take control of our road to recoveries. And for some, like in the instance of my father, there needs to be some overriding authority to make sure they have he opportunity to make decisions with mental clarity.

Thanks for continuing to read, to care, to share… I’m never really sure who reads this, or what will come of it in the future. Hopefully it’s all good.

-Diana

Unknown Territory

“You learned to run from what you feel, and that's why you have nightmares. To deny is to invite madness. To accept is to control.”  - Megan Chance

“You learned to run from what you feel, and that’s why you have nightmares. To deny is to invite madness. To accept is to control.” – Megan Chance

I promised myself that I would continue writing in this blog even when the discomfort of the unknown started to creep in. As the world around me continues to propel forward, I find myself wondering where my father is in all of this. He hasn’t been returning my calls.

I’ve called him to see how he is and I’m not sure why he hasn’t called me back. It could be something as simple as just wanting his space, or maybe he misplaced his phone. This is not the first time I’ve been down this road, but for some reason it feels like unknown territory because of where we’ve been in the last two years.

We have both had time to reflect and decompress from the intensity of our recent experiences. I’m sure he feels equally as overwhelmed as I do. I like to stay positive in thinking that this is a period of growth for the both of us, and that he is off somewhere capturing life through the lens. I like to believe that he is regaining a sense of self and growing stronger each day.

At the same time I can’t help but wonder if things are backsliding for him. Nobody wants to see their parents or loved ones on the streets… especially not again if they’ve survived it and gotten to a better place. But this is a reminder of what I had written just a month ago: He is good for today.

I think this is an important piece to touch upon when discussing the “homeless issue.” For those of us who are connected to this social condition, whether it be through our personal or professional gravitation, we can’t “control” an individual’s decisions or thoughts. No matter how badly we want to “fix the issue” or “solve homelessness,” I don’t think it will ever go away. We don’t live in a perfect world, and as “Fox” mentioned in his interview:

“… No one is immune and it could happen to them at any time!”

Sometimes the best I can do is appreciate the good, hope for the best, and help others when I can. Accepting that things are out of my control is not easy, but I know that no matter what happens… it will be okay. It has to be.

-Diana

First Bracelet

When asked to write one word to describe herself and her life: "Survivor."

When asked to write one word to describe herself and her life: “Survivor.”

You recognize a survivor when you see one. You recognize a fighter when you see one. – Elizabeth Edwards

Some weeks go by fast, and some really slow. This particular week has felt like an oncoming storm with new opportunities and experiences. All in good ways. I was able to reconnect with Roxy yesterday and sat down for a few minutes to input her medical information into her bracelet. It worked effortlessly and she was really happy about having the backup technology. It feels good to know that she has a safety net now. She doesn’t have to worry so much about having her stuff tossed or stolen. The bracelet is literally just one small thing, but I hope it helps.

When asked to write one word to describe herself and what it is like being a homeless woman, she shared: “Survivor.” It was perfect. Roxy has been through hell and back, and yet she still carries herself with dignity and maintains a positive outlook on life.

We talked about our lives — what’s been happening, how things are going, etc. She always seems keenly interested in how I’m doing in law school. I shared my anxiety over an upcoming mock trial for a clinic. I couldn’t help but laugh when she told me to stop hanging out with the homeless and study/prepare instead. She’s right. If I were representing her, maybe that would have made the facts of my case seem/feel more “real.”

I’m still partly in the ivory tower — I have a ladder that I like to use to escape every now and then. Camera in hand, of course. It’s a good balance.

Life is interesting, isn’t it? When I look back at this journey I recognize that it all started with a camera. I started documenting the homeless as an undergraduate student, and went to graduate school with the desire to learn more about the healthcare system so I could continue developing my project on Birth Culture. And somehow it evolved into focusing on social justice issues through the lens, then law school. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue developing this story, and I’m amazed at how my own personal life has unfolded to bring me closer to the people I reached out to in the first place. I do believe something greater is at work here. Call it God, the Universe, Mother Nature, whatever you want…

Every day is a new day. Every day is an opportunity to grow and learn from others and ourselves. Tonight I’m thinking about how all the little things in my past led me to meeting Roxy. Believe it or not, she has actually helped me to understand some of my unresolved feelings about my own mother. What it means to love someone, but from afar because it’s the healthiest way. And I’ve been able to share what it’s like to do the same, but as the child in the relationship. We were both equally touched by our emotional exchange about the feelings of loss in letting go of those we love… and accepting that some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life.

It is a beautiful thing when perfect strangers can meet with open hearts, open minds, and simply acknowledge the other in a mutually respectful and loving way. I’m glad I can share these kinds of memories and look forward to continuing the journey.

-Diana