I Chose to Become the Girl I Wanted to Be

In this Story of Self, JP Alumni Fellow Erika Rodriguez describes her journey from being hurt to choosing herself and her children.

JP Boston alum and 2022 JP Alumni Fellow Erika Rodriguez is a parent leader and is an active member of the JP Boston community. A central part of Empowerment and Leadership, the three-month course that marks the beginning of every JP mom’s journey, is the Story of Self — a deep exploration into claiming one’s own narrative. During the 2022 virtual JP Summit, Erika shared her Story of Self: her process of triumphing over her challenges, choosing herself and her children, evolving, and loving her new self. Here’s her story.

When I was pregnant with my third child, I found myself in a funk. I couldn’t get myself out of bed every day, I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to eat. Most importantly, I didn’t want anybody to know I was in a funk. Out of the blue, my supervisor called me, and she told me to go to her office because she wanted to talk. She knows about my situation and has been the wise person who has given me suggestions to be able to do better for myself. We spoke, and she advised me to get up, start doing things for myself and my self-fulfillment, and to be there for my kids. This conversation changed my mind because she put it in a way for me to understand — and because she was there for me before, so I was confident enough that everything was gonna be OK.

After having that conversation with her, I didn’t take what she said right away. I applied that advice months after, when I finally decided to make moves for myself. I signed up for school and was able to do things I enjoyed alone. I chose to move on. There were tough days and nights. I didn’t all of a sudden get out of my funk — but after time.

The decision brought me enjoyment, new experiences like enrolling in the Jeremiah Program, but also major growth. I joined many communities, and I learned how to be alone. I also learned what I really wanted for myself. The journey isn’t perfect or happy all the time, but it is a trial and error. I went out and became a business major in less than two years, I became a better parent by spending more time with my children, and I took on tasks professionally that now serve me well. As a result of this, I accomplished many of my goals in a short amount of time, and other things manifested after these goals were accomplished.

Even as things improved and I took on new experiences, I got closer and closer to the most important decision I needed to make: Do I choose to respect myself and my own boundaries, or do I hold on to the idea of the perfect father for my kids? I found out that the person I loved — and the father of my children — was not a healthy role model for our children. Our relationship suffered, and it was filled with toxicity. Thirds were involved, and things got worse than they already were. The relationship suffered because it was rushed, it was one-sided, manipulative, and it was a controlling one. I didn’t know that this was what I was going through; I thought it was normal, and I thought I had to stick it through.

Choosing to become that girl was the best decision I ever made. Along the way, I met Erika again.

I was battling my own feelings of hurt and pain, but I had to choose if I wanted him to be around the children. Did I want my children to have a relationship with their dad or not? I battled with that decision for a long time, but one day I saw him living and being happy without me or the children. So the decision became clear. I thought, How could someone go about their life without caring about their children and the limitations they will encounter? He didn’t see them for weeks. Then it turned into months and then on and off. These actions were affecting my children, especially mentally and emotionally, so I decided that I didn’t want to co-parent, and I didn’t want him to be there for my children. So again, I chose myself.

Looking back, I know that if it wasn’t for me having empathy for myself, I wouldn’t have been able to make the choice to move on without him. Empathy helped me realize that it’s better to forgive than to stay angry at the world. I saw him hurt me and my children over and over again, but it had nothing to do with our actions. The memories of the bad moments helped me move forward and learn from my mistakes. I chose to let go, I chose to find a way, and I chose to become the girl I wanted to be.

I’m far from being completely there, but I have come closer to the perfectly imperfect in my eyes. Choosing to become that girl was the best decision I ever made. Why? Well, because along the way, I met Erika again — well, the improved version. I met amazing people, have gotten opportunities and new experiences, and seen the growth of my children. This decision not only made us a bit happier but also made us stronger individuals.

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