Carmen Cusido

Journalist

Year of Travel, Year of Healing by Carmen Cusido

Following the most terrible breakup of my life at the tail end of 2010, I vowed at the beginning of 2011 to make this year my “year of travel” - I proposed to go on at least one trip a month as a way to get over the man I loved the most.

What I hadn’t expected at the beginning of 2011 is that I would become so afraid of Facebook, I would log on three or four times this year at best. (Every time I would log on, I remember that my ex removed me, and so when I’d log on to the social-networking site, I would get anxious and sad. Heck, there were months where I even kept my cell phone off for hours at a time. But I digress. This is a story about the trips and the moments that helped me heal in 2011).

I humbly share my story with you about how each month (and trip) that passed made me a little stronger.

And to those I may have ignored this year (I even went as far as to not check the e-mail associated with this account), please know that it wasn’t on purpose. I was too caught up in my own pain in 2011, but I vow never to let myself get to that point again.

Love, blessings and happiness to all :)
Sincerely,
Carmen
cec2147@caa.columbia.edu
 
January: This was by far, the toughest month of the year for me. Though the breakup happened in November, this was the month we had our last, most painful conversation, and I felt we wouldn’t ever talk again.

I was numb and very depressed for most of January, and very thankful for my job (working on several front-page stories was an ego boost, as was thinking about anything else besides my pain for eight hours a day).
One of my mentors, Susan, coaxed me to be more social.

Sue, who quite literally wrote the book on heartache (I would recommend reading her memoir, “Five Men Who Broke My Heart”), invited me to two of her book events. I also spent a three-day weekend with my friend Amanda at Kripalu, a yoga retreat in Massachusetts, this month.

Moment of healing: Even at the worst of my despair, it felt good to know I had friends and mentors willing to hold my hand (literally and metaphorically) through it. I also was able to eat really healthy organic food while healing my body with a couple of sessions of yoga when I visited with Amanda.

February: I spent a weekend with my friend, Ryan, in Washington, D.C. He not only made me breakfast on Superbowl Sunday, but for the better part of the weekend, endured Glee marathons and watched Ferris Buller’s Day Off and Scarface with me.

And even when a couple of pretty girls were heavily flirting with him at a bar that Friday night, he would walk over to me a few times to make sure I was having fun.

Of course, during that time, I completely but a wall between myself and any man (giving one-word answers or glaring at any poor fellow that dared to show romantic interest in me).

"Way to put up a wall, Cusido," Ryan, son of two psychologists, told me.

Though I was still in a lot of emotional pain for most of February, spending time with a good friend like Ryan made me feel more at ease.

Moment of healing: It felt good to know that even though I have harshly judged myself (both for this breakup and past failings), my good friends love and accept me for who I am (and I even get a good breakfast to boot)!

March: By now, most of the mini-trips I had taken (the first was to visit family in Miami in December 2010) were to see people I knew and visit places I’d been to before.

This month I decided I wanted to go to New Orleans right before Mardi Gras.

This was by far the most fascinating city I’ve ever been to - and to say the people of this great city are friendly is truly an understatement (perhaps this trip deserves its own essay).

I got to eat alligator meat (a kind waitor named Will gave me a free sampling), got a ton of beads without having to expose myself (I went along the family parade route, where you couldn’t do that anyway), and, among other things, took a trip on the steamboat The Natchez.

However, March was also particularly challenging because a long-time friend decided she no longer wanted to be a part of my life. I was hurt and angry, but I also realized I could have been a better friend to her when she was in my life. As a result of her leaving, I learned how to be a better person (and a better listener) to the people who have chosen to stay in my life.

Moment of healing: I learned from past mistakes without beating myself up. It is painful when people leave your life, but many times the lessons you learn are invaluable and help you not lose other people in the future.


April: I changed things up a bit this month.

I went with Amanda, another one of my best friends, to Burlington, Vt., and Montreal. This is the first month where I started feeling myself being lifted out of the fog. Though we were too exhausted to enjoy the nightlife (we were back in the hotel by 9:30 or 10 p.m.), it was great to walk around and sit in French Canadian cafes (in Montreal, of course) and order exotic-sounding coffees and teas.

I also went to Nashville as part of the Minority Writers Seminar I was chosen to attend. I met a lot of amazing people (again, I’m sorry I haven’t kept in touch - but I vow to do so now) who made me laugh and proved to be great company as we headed to the best bbq joint in the birthplace of country music.

Moment of healing: Sometimes its nice to reminisce with an old friend over several hours’ worth of driving (Amanda, you have so much patience as I talked significantly more than you did!)

May: This month began with the death of my great-aunt Carmen.
I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even speak - just cry uncontrolably with my friend Lorin on the phone. Refusing to take “no” for an answer, Lorin asked me to meet him at a local Panera. What followed was me talking for about an hour about my great aunt, and what a tremendous loss this was (she was like another grandmother to me), while he treated me to a smoothie.

Lorin, there are no words to express how grateful I am to call you a best friend. Not only for helping me out this year, but for all the moments you share your wisdom and kindness with me.

My birthday (on the 12th) was bittersweet.

I was sad about the people that were no longer in my life - either because they died or because they had made the choice to not be a part of my life - but also filled with gratitude for the people that remembered me on my 28th birthday. On a whim, I decided the next morning to Chicago for the weekend.

Moment of healing: After coming home exhaused from a three-day trip where I did more driving than sightseeing, I realized I shouldn’t just go visit places solely to escape from my pain.


June: There were no trips this month (other than the “trips” to see my grandmother at the hospital, and a particularly nice in Margate with my best friend Joel and his now-fiancee Arielle).

During the first weekend of June, I adopted a beautiful black kitty I renamed Columbia (yes, I name pets after schools I’ve attended).

The same weekend as my ex-boyfriend’s birthday, my grandmother came home from the hospital, but my older cat, 14-year-old Kitty-Kitty, had a stroke and, I learned, an ear infection. I rushed with him to the 24-hour vet hospital, but an unfortunate by-product of his illness is that his head remains partly twisted.

Moment of healing: While it was awful to see my grandmother and my old cat sick, I was thankful that I still had both. I was also thankful for having adopted Columbia, who has brought me a lot of joy.

July: I traveled to El Sanctuario de Chimayo in Chimayo (an hour away from Santa Fe), NM. The sanctuary is a small, humble adobe church that draws thousands of Catholic pilgrims from all over the world. In need of a miracle, I went into a small room, knelt, and picked up some “holy dirt.” It may have worked - in September my mother spilled some on my 95-year-old grandma and she came home from the hospital the next day.

Moment of healing:
Visiting the church made me feel peaceful and at ease.


August: I packed my bags and drove the 10 hours to Detroit for a few days to attend the Asian American Journalists’ convention for networking purposes (and also because I’ve been wanting to visit Michigan).

Moment of healing: Eating the best Middle Eastern food ever in Dearborn. Seriously, sometimes healing just comes from devouring a delicious meal!


September: My only mini-trip this month was to Cambridge, Mass. and Boston to visit CS, a Harvard PhD student I had been talking to for a little while. Incidentally, he had the most incredibly tight abs, it almost made me want to write poetry about it (yes, dammit, this is a superficial comment to make, but you should have seen those abs!!)

I had met him (CS) in the same place I met most of my other dates: Date my School, a pretty good site as far as dating goes (some of my dates through the site were lackluster in terms of potential future romances, but I feel I at least got a friend out of it, so it works).

CS told me I was the “favorite” of three girls he was interested in. While I was thankful to him for being so honest (and in the past I would have waited until the other two would have been disqualified from the race, to “prove” myself that I was good enough for him, this time it was different) I happily took off my running shoes and quit this race all together. I want and deserve to be the “favorite” of one. By the time he told me he wasn’t interested in being my boyfriend (who didn’t see that coming?) I had already mourned that loss.

Moment of healing: My moment of healing came when I realized I’m a woman who needs more than kick-ass abs and a Harvard degree from a man. And that having those things doesn’t not make me more of a worthy person.


October: There were no trips this month, only moments of gratitude and sadness. My best friend’s mom died this month, and I was filled with sadness at the loss. I was also filled with gratitude for the way M raised my best friend and her brother into the wonderful, thoughtful people they are today. May God bless you, M.

November: After speaking to AJS for more than a month - a man I truly liked and connected with - he and I decided to meet halfway in Baltimore (he lives in Virginia).

After he asked me out - “Want to be my girlfriend?” he said. I felt like a nervous teenager “yes,” I responded, giggling.

But after we were “formally” dating, he began to become concerned about the distance, and sooner than later, I was, by default, single again since he had stopped calling me.

After my mini-heartache, I promised to close myself off to future dating possibilities, but it was my wise and beautiful cousin Raisa (who, God bless her, gets over any heart break in a considerably less amount of time than I do) who said I’d only be doing a disservice to myself.

Moment of healing: Realizing that sometimes you just have to forgive people who hurt you without really having to talk to them. Also realizing that by forgiving people, I lift a huge weight from my chest.

December: I dedicated part of this month to volunteering. A friend and classmate from Columbia let me know about Minds Matter, a non-profit where you help exceptionally intelligent teenagers hone their writing skills (www.mindsmatter.org). I am looking to volunteering with this amazing organization in 2012.

For my last trip of 2011, I am heading to a masquerade ball with three friends in Brooklyn. When I look back at where I was a year ago to today, I am bursting with joy. Despite the challenges of this trying year, I’ve come out on the other side a more resillient person.

Moments of healing from 2011: I’m grateful to the friends, family, and others who refused to give up on me (and ultimately, thankful that I refused to give up on myself) when life brought heartache and pain.

If you’ve made it this far into my essay, thank you.

There are so many people who have helped me along this healing journey of 2011 (way too many to name them all, in fact) but in particular I’d want to thank Christina, my parents, Ryan and my four best friends: Amanda, Jen, Joel and Lorin.

About Carmen

Carmen Cusido graduated from Rutgers University (Rutgers College) in 2005 with honors and a degree in journalism and political science. She earned her Master of of Science at Columbia School of Journalism in 2010.

Cusido works as a full-time reporter at The Times of Trenton, covering mostly education and county government. Cusido has worked for DiversityInc, freelanced for The Star-Ledger, New Jersey Monthly and El Diario/La Prensa and interned at Rutgers magazine and at The Jersey Journal. She also worked as a reporter for the Gannett-owned Home News Tribune, contributing to its now-defunct Spanish weekly paper, Nuestra Communidad and the quarterly magazine DesiNJ.

In her spare time, Cusido has volunteered with the American Diabetes Association through their “Por tu Familia” initiative, targeting Latinos at risk for diabetes, and those who already have the disease. Cusido is a member of  the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In addition, she is a Class of 2004 alumna of the NEW Leadership, a five-day long intensive summer program through the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.

Most of her articles can be found at http://connect.nj.com/user/ccusido/index.html

Follow Carmen on Twitter at: twitter.com/carmencusido or e-mail her at cec2147@caa.columbia.edu.

“Journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.”

—   Joseph Pulitzer