Eneris Bernard Santos

Discovering Duality

Being me is experiencing a constant flood of emotions. That’s how my two younger sisters describe me: emotional. I show how I really feel because I can’t help it. I can’t hide it.

I’m impulsive. Rather than stopping to think, my actions tend to be based on how I feel in any given moment, how I immediately interpret a situation. The thinking comes after, and at that point, it’s overthinking—full of doubt, guilt, and regret. If how I acted or reacted is really gnawing at me, I usually talk it out with somebody. It could be anybody, honestly.

I’m extroverted and I’m energetic—basically a ball of energy. When I envision a ball, it’s in constant motion. Even when a ball is still, people see it and want to play with it. They want to pick it up and touch it. I crave physical affection. I’m very affectionate, very touchy. I like hugging people, grabbing their arms. I just like human contact. It can be too much for some people.

I also define myself as lazy. I like to call myself a lazy potato.

Usually, I wake up exhausted and moody, because who likes to wake up early in the morning? But by the time I get to the university, I’m not tired anymore. The first thing I do is try to find somebody to hang out with, and if I can’t, I’ll do homework, maybe go to the library. I can entertain myself just fine, but I’m always looking for someone to be with. College isn’t like high school, where you see your friends and get to hang out with them all day. Everyone has their own busy schedule, so whenever I can find a time to be with someone, I take it. After that, I go to my classes and try not to space out. I spend most of my days daydreaming. It’s just a constant state that I’m in. I can’t focus too long without going somewhere else in my brain.

We are always creating something, aren’t we? I think that’s just a constant part of being human, whether it’s creation on a big or small scale. As far as physical creations go, I don’t have many. But I am a fiction writer. I mostly like to write magical realism, fantasy, and fairytales. I am always mentally creating something, mentally writing, maybe creating a character or story in my mind that plays out like I’m watching a movie. Even the voice in my head is her own separate character; I’m always talking to myself in a British accent.

When I’m daydreaming, I’m just as susceptible to having flashbacks of things that really happened as I am to imagining things that didn’t. I was born in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico is a tropical island, which means it rained there at least once a day. Whenever it rains here, I find myself opening the windows and closing up the vents so I can listen to it and be transported back home.

The same thing happens whenever I smell coconut, even if it’s a faux scent in someone’s hand lotion, perfume, or my shampoo. Smelling it leads to a good nostalgia, the kind that makes me feel all warm inside. It’s a reminder that there was that part of my life and a realization that it’s still there. It’s going to continue being here with me, and that brings comfort to me now.

One memory I have of Puerto Rico that comes to me most often is going to El Yunque Rain Forest with my father and stepmom a few summers ago. There are three ways to enter and hike the forest, and we chose the trail that started at the very bottom and ended at the very top where there is this little spot—basically a big rock—that leads over the main ledge. When we got to the top, I walked out onto the rock, and it was so high up that, for a moment, I couldn’t see anything because I was in the clouds, in the sunless dark. The water droplets making up the clouds stuck to my skin and my hair. But slowly the clouds dissipated, the sky brightened, and before I knew it, I could see everything, what seemed like the whole island. The droplets covering me caught the light, and me and everything below me shimmered. It was beautiful.

I like to go back to that place in my mind whenever I’m feeling anxious. This also stems from being born somewhere else, but I have a hard time feeling like I genuinely belong somewhere. I know that’s something everybody struggles with, but moving to Nebraska from Puerto Rico at a young age, even though they are both part of the United States, was such a culture shock. They’re two different worlds. That sudden transition from everything I had known growing up to a place that didn’t seem real to me was so difficult. Like my elementary school in Puerto Rico would flood whenever it rained. I remember being amazed by the bathrooms at my new school in Nebraska, thinking they were the cleanest, shiniest, biggest, and prettiest bathrooms I had ever seen. It’s clear when you look at these small things that U.S. states and U.S. territories are not treated equally, and it becomes painfully obvious when you look at large-scale disasters like Hurricane Maria.

I adapted to the move pretty fast, but I felt like an outsider, and that’s something I still struggle with. Most of the time it’s just little things, like not being able to relate to my peers because there’s a joke in Spanish that’s not translatable to English, so I can’t share it with them. Or my friends never knowing about a favorite TV character I grew up with because they weren’t exposed to the same shows. And some of my classmates, even now in college, don’t even realize that being Puerto Rican also means being American, a U.S. citizen. I’ve been called an immigrant, but I’ve never immigrated. To immigrate is to move to a foreign country, and I’m not a foreigner. The U.S. is my native country.

There’s always loss whenever you go through a big move, a big change. There’s death. Death to parts of yourself. Death in totality to how things used to be. Things just become memory, and then that’s all they will be forever.

I’ve noticed this mainly through watching my little sisters grow up. They are continually transforming into entirely different people. It’s a bit of a tragedy for me sometimes, realizing that they are big girls now and not the same as they used to be. Basically, I have to get to know them all over again. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a shock I’ve learned to adjust to, just like everything else.

Now, I’ve learned that some loss can be good for better things to take place of whatever was there before. When a big change is happening in my life now, after I get the emotional shock out of the way, it just feels thrilling. Now, I like to push myself to make major changes, to travel. I just want to expand my world, my perspective, to learn all that I can.

I’ve also learned not to take anything for granted. Because you never know how fast your little sisters are going to grow up, you never know when a family member is going to get sick, and you never know when you’re going to come across a situation where you’re forced to leave your home. Life is about appreciation—even if it’s just the small everyday, seemingly-mundane things—because you never know when they will be taken from you or when you will have to leave them behind.

I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my sisters and my mom and my dad with me through all of this. It means so much to have them here. People who have watched me grow up, who raised me, who helped me become the person I am today. People who love and support me regardless.

Sometimes, I have a hard time loving and supporting myself. Because I tend to overthink everything, I have a hard time finding comfort in anything I do. My stepdad has pointed out to me that I walk with no confidence, and he’s right. Usually when I’m walking, it’s a constant fear of what are other people thinking about me? But then I think about my little sisters. When my sisters see that their older sister doesn’t really love herself as she should, I worry that it doesn’t send a good message to them. I want to set a good example for them by loving myself more, by learning to be happy. And if I come to that point where I just feel like there is no way for me to be happy on my own, knowing I have two sisters that look up to me that I can help provide for and make happy will always make me feel happy.

Life is worth living for them.

And life is worth living because there are so many beautiful things to see, even in places where you least expect it. For example, I was walking my dog a few days ago. I’ve walked around my neighborhood so many times, and the scenery doesn’t seem to change. But if you stop looking at the ground and you actually look at your surroundings, then you find the coolest things. On that walk with him, I noticed a huge tree for the first time. The leaves looked like hearts, and whenever the wind hit them, they started spinning. The whole tree just looked one big wind chime. Life is about paying attention.

I used to not think that I was a determined person. Like I said, I always thought I was so lazy. That’s how I defined myself. But lately, I have realized that my laziness is just another thing altogether. Really, I’m stubborn. When I have an idea in my head or a destination in mind, I will do anything to make it happen. I will try my hardest. And it’s paid off. Through study abroad programs and scholarships, I was able to go to Japan for a month in the summer, and I just back from a semester of studying abroad in South Korea. I’ve been to so many places I never thought possible.

And through all of that, through moving, through traveling, I’ve realized that I’m just a little bit of everything.

I’m Eneris Bernard Santos, and I’m a kind person, but I can be coldhearted if you catch me on the wrong day. I can be blunt, which can come off as rude, and I’m not the most patient person. But if there’s something I can do to help others, be it big or small, I will do it.

I’m Eneris, and there’s a lot to me that I don’t even know how to describe, how to define. There’s just too much, and I get distracted so easily—by my memories, by my daydreams, by beauty. But I’m learning that having seemingly-opposing traits doesn’t make me contradictory, but balanced.

I’m still exploring myself, like my neighborhood, a new native homeland, or a foreign country.

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