When I was a young girl growing up in Havana, I often overheard my parents talking about leaving the country. These conversations were conducted in low hushed tones. The words coming out of their mouths were barely whispered. Most of our relatives resided in the United States while my parents had remained in Cuba after the Revolution. We were not allowed to leave the country, not even when my paternal grandmother died in Chicago. At the time, leaving the Communist island-nation was almost impossible. It wasn’t until I was fifteen-years-old that I was able to immigrate to the United States. After that, it would take several more years before my parents and I would be reunited again. My parents’ dream of seeing the entire family together again didn’t become a reality until I was a young adult. But they never gave up on their dream and neither did I. Growing up in Cuba wasn’t easy. I used to escape the harsh realities of daily life through avid reading. Greek mythology was by far my favorite genre during those early years. I was thoroughly acquainted with the tale of King Midas’ golden touch, the story of Pegasus the flying horse, the amazing feats of mighty Hercules, and Odysseus’ fantastic and thrilling adventures.
As a child I remember hearing my father say, “Hay que perseverar para lograr los sueños,” which means, “You must persevere to achieve your dreams.” My mother used to tell me, “¡Nunca te des por vencida!” Loosely translated, “Don’t ever give up!” Their combined wisdom was deeply implanted in the recesses of my subconscious. I thank God for my parents and their message of perseverance! Being a young teenager attempting to acculturate to my new country while learning a new language and experiencing hardships was difficult for sure. There were many times I felt like giving up, particularly in High School. Entering the work force while simultaneously attending college, becoming a Naturalized American Citizen, and bringing my parents over from Cuba weren’t effortless endeavors either. I was only twenty-one-years-old when my parents were finally able to immigrate to the United States. By that time I was thoroughly and fully assimilated into my new culture, but once they arrived I had to go through the process of rediscovering my Cuban roots. It was the only way I could truly reconnect with my parents again. I didn’t give up on that process and neither did they. Sometimes when I reflect back on those years, it feels as if they happened to someone else. It’s as if I’m watching a movie about another person’s life experience. The main protagonist is a complete stranger to me, but then I realize that without those tough experiences I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.
I remember when Disney’s Hercules first came out in theaters. I went to see the movie with a friend of mine and her two young daughters. As an avid Disney enthusiast and great fan of Greek mythology, I couldn’t pass it up! Hercules is a hysterically funny movie, but there are some really important and profound life lessons to learn from this film too. In one moving scene Phil, Hercules’ trainer and friend, tells Hercules that, “Giving up is for rookies.” While watching this movie it dawned on me that my parents’ message many years earlier had been the exact same one. Always persevere! Don’t ever quit or give up! No matter how insurmountable the odds or how dark the circumstances may seem, we must keep trying to do our best. What other choice do we really have? To borrow one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Walt Disney himself, we have to “keep moving forward.” I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t encountered challenges along the way. But we have to go through difficult experiences to truly become emotionally mature individuals. There is no getting around this! Trying to circumvent the process is what an immature person would do. It’s what a rookie would do. It would rob us of the growth that happens when we go through the painful process of overcoming great hardships.
It’s been several years since I left Havana, and since then I’ve experienced many more challenges in my life. I’ve become a mother, and one blessed with a special needs child. However, my own parents’ wisdom combined with Mr. Disney’s advice will continue to propel me toward the future. My hope is to convey the same message of perseverance to my children. I wish to impart this great wisdom on them as they grow into adulthood. While they have thankfully been spared the traumatic events associated with immigration, they will certainly confront several other challenges and overcome many hardships throughout the course of their lives. But I have faith that, just when they begin to feel like quitting, they too will be reminded that, “Giving up is for rookies!”
Contributed by: Ritzy McCarthy Ritzy is a DDL Guest Parenting Blogger and proud member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. Visit the Walt Disney World Moms Panel for help planning your Magical Trip. She is not a Disney employee. The postings on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent Disney’s positions or opinions.