It trips me out that I’m living in a space in which at one point, my family of six would have all shared that studio apartment together. I was able to get my shit together before I got DACA. I no longer needed to live with or crash at someone’s house any more because of the stability that comes with a regular job and paycheck. I got DACA after the fact that I was already living on my own; it just made things easier once I got it.
And now as I prepare to move into a bigger and better apartment by myself, I can’t help but to reflect on my past living situations. Whether it was living at home with my family or living with friends and their families, having a space to call my own has never been easy. When I lived with my family, everything was shared between my three younger sisters and my parents. At times, we had the luxury of all of us having our own separate rooms and in tough times, all six of us shared a studio apartment as we rushed to turn off electronics and not make any noise cause the buildings manager was knocking on our door for that months rent.
Yet, it wasn’t always like that. When my family lived in Mexico, we had it as good as a working class family could get. We lived in an apartment building, which from what I remember was spacious enough for my parents, my two sisters and myself. In fact, we had extended family regularly stay with us in that apartment as they made they way to the US. We lived in Mexico City at the time. Then everything changed once my family got to the US.
For one, my father made the spontaneous decision to move to the US out of some random impulse, much like buying a pack of gum at the supermarket. My mom had to get rid of everything we owned that wasn’t clothes or personal keep sakes. I have feint memories of packing things up and getting ready for the move, which at the time was to my great grandmas ranch in Michoacán, where my mom is from. We lived on that ranch for a few months until my father saved up enough money to pay for my mom and sisters to cross over. I on the other hand fell asleep inside a car in Mexico and woke up in Boyle Heights.
For a few good months, we bounced around from relative to relative when we first got here. All the extended family that stayed with us in Mexico was pretty much beholden to return the favor. That burned a ton of bridges for a bunch of different reasons that can be summed up as family politics, but eventually my father managed to move us into a place of our own in Watts, off 91st and Central. We spent a few years there before my father moved us to Long Beach for three years. Then we moved back to Watts/Willowbrook, followed by Inglewood, Pico Union and Boyle Heights once again.
I didn’t start living with friends until 2007 when my family relocated to Utah. I lived with them for about two months. I came back to LA to visit friends and go to a comic book convention, but instead I just ended up staying. I was never the best houseguest and my experiences were nothing like the 1995 movie staring Sinbad and Phil Hartman. My parents ended up moving back to LA for a brief time, and I moved back in with them during that time, but eventually they moved back to Utah because they just couldn’t hustle and make it in LA like they use to. Not wanting to go to Utah, I started staying with friends again and bounced around for a bit as I balanced everything else around me.
I’ve learned a lot about myself through those experiences for better and for worse. Not having your own personal space takes it toll when all you wanna do is just have time alone. Obviously, there’s a stark comparison on how I’ve lived the last year on my own to when I lived with others. When I lived with others, I pretty much did everything I could to stay out as late as I could hanging out, drinking, going on bike rides etc. I’d tried to do the same for holidays and celebrations because I hate being an awkward third wheel, but when you live in someone else’s home, it can’t be helped.
Now adays, I have the freedom of shutting out the world when I don’t feel like being a part of it, mostly holidays, and just tune out everything. I can spend an entire day in my underwear, watching anime and playing video games till I go blind. I’ve been enjoying myself and I’m grateful to everyone that has helped me reach this point in my life. I was never the perfect house guest, but I will never forget the generosity others have shared with me by open up their home when I didn’t have one.