I get asked about this constantly, so I decided to make a short blog, I must warn you it's very honest. I hope this answers some of your questions about who I am, and why I do what I do.
It is 2008 and there I was, standing on a subway platform, in Manhattan waiting for my train, not to board it… but to jump in front of it. A young and clueless version of myself, fresh out of family court, feeling tired and very much defeated after going in convinced that my days of physical, mental, financial, and sexual abuse were over. I had absolutely no idea who I was, born and raised in the Dominican Republic with complete confusion over my “duties" as a woman—under the boot of an extremely patriarchal upbringing. This is how I ended up in a dangerously toxic marriage at a very young age, and by walking away, I eventually had to live on the streets of NYC.
The very core of who I am has been connected to science, even before I knew what science actually was. I‘ve always craved a deeper understanding of the world around me, this was a need which was never satisfied growing up and it actually became a huge source of anxiety for me. I never had exposure to science or proper education under any capacity, so there was no way for me to know that my passion has a name. I used to be obsessed with knowing the “how and why” of everything, and as cliché as this will probably sound, I always wanted to go into space. The universe (which to me consisted of the Moon and the Sun at the time) has always been a source of peace in my life, I was a loner by choice and many nights the Moon became my best friend. I always wanted to study the universe, but I had no idea that such a thing could be done—let alone by someone like me, or that women were allowed to do it. To make this part short, when I was 17 years old (living in the US) I had basically taught myself English, moved on from an extremely underserved high school, figured out how to get a GED, and after experiencing seemingly endless biases because of it, I set out to try to meet my goals. The lack of mentoring and guidance did not make things any easier over the following years, but I was finally leaving behind spousal abuse toxic relationships, poverty, and homelessness.
Navigating many spaces I wish to occupy, I realized the complete lack of awareness many people have about the fact that not everyone is born into good circumstances, has access to proper education, or is able to follow what they call “traditional paths" in life. There are some individuals who, like me, have to rely on survival to even dare to dream-this enables a lot of exclusion in the sciences and everyday life. These days I own my story by being unapologetically vocal about my experiences, and I am determined to challenge whatever stereotypes I face when chasing my goals by self-advocating. In 2017 while recovering from an accident, I repurposed an old and unused Twitter account to entertain myself, and in this process, I realized social media could be a great tool for visibility and outreach. This "rebellious and non-traditional" pursuit of my autonomy has made me gain some notoriety in certain groups, which can be very difficult and attract a lot of unwarranted negativity at times, but it’s also an opportunity to help others who come from similar situations. Now I live my life by quotes like "It is not about who's going to let me, it's about who's going to stop me".
It has been an exhausting journey, but I cannot say I regret it. Things like family, love, support, mentoring, and access to things like education can easily be taken for granted by those who always had them. Sometimes you have to become the person you needed when you were younger, and that is what I'm trying to do every day of my life.