Danielle’s Story

From Danielle

The months following my graduation I felt extremely unclear and frankly nervous about what was ahead of me. Before I graduated I somehow thought that I would have an idea about what my life would look like; I thought it would magically fall into place. The morning of the 16th, something else happened. I felt a slow creep of despair crawl into my heart. Each morning began with this subtle feeling of hopelessness. The next five months felt like a slow haze of confusion driven by spurts of despair and fear. I had no direction. I didn’t know what to do with my degree in Theology. I almost felt like it was the worst decision to major in Theology. I literally regretted the choice the day of my graduation. During those five months, life moved slowly. I wasted time mulling over what I wanted and then allowed fear to diminish those thoughts. I watched too many TV shows and slept. I felt stuck; I felt useless.

So I did what I felt like would change things – I fled.  

My brother lives in San Francisco, so I decided to live with him for a few days and scope out job prospects. I left because I didn’t want to face my unexciting life. I’d heard of so many friends who, after they graduated, began to travel, started wonderful jobs across the country, and moved away to start school. And I, being here in Azusa, the small town where my family had nestled, felt trapped. I wanted something exciting; I wanted something different then the slow pace of my life.

The four months I spent in San Francisco and Oakland were lonely, but a needed experience. I worked two jobs for a short while and then worked mainly outside of a large warehouse as a customer service rep. I answered fifty calls a day, helping customers with their complaints and issues. The job sucked joy out of me. I was literally someone’s punching bag. I was being paid $11.50 an hour doing work that I could not make a career out of. I didn’t care about the work.

One weekend in September in 2013, I came home to visit family. I went to Mountainside and I think it was Josh who announced the start of the immigration resource center. My ears perked up. I felt inspired. That Sunday felt like a confirmation for me, almost a calling to return home. I want to believe that it was the work of the Spirit calling me to join in. Around the same time, I was offered a temp job at Russ Reid and was given a car as a gift from my parents. These events affirmed my decision to come back.

I had already been missing Mountainside very much and wondered why I wanted to be away from a community where I felt like I belonged. Around this time, my niece Maia was about eleven months old. I didn’t want to miss out seeing her develop and discover the world around her. I returned home to be back with my family and with Mountainside.

The fact that Mountainside was going to start an immigration resource center was the pivotal marker for my decision. My mother emigrated with her family when she was seven years old from Mexico. My grandfather was born in Colorado, so this made applying for citizenship easy. My mother would tell me of my grandparents’ experiences working in the fields as vegetable and fruit pickers. She and her six siblings worked in the strawberry fields to help provide for the family. I heard of other stories of my grandmother’s work in the factories stitching together Louis Vuitton purses and her long days working with leather.

With the call to return home and enter into this movement with Mountainside and the IRC, I felt like I had direction and hope. I joined in because my mother’s family worked extremely hard in manual labor type of jobs. They paved the way for my siblings and me. I joined in the work to support those who have gone before me, travelled through miles of desert in search of hope, only to find an unfair and unjust system and for some, who made the same trek across the Mexico-US border, death. I joined so that I could walk alongside those who have worked harder to survive than I ever could.