Sometimes you just need to break the cycle

farewellI always said I wouldn’t grow up to be like my mother.

When I saw her, I saw a woman who wouldn’t leave her husband. A woman who didn’t put her children first.

I grew angry that my father’s temper prevented me from having teenage sleepovers. I grew resentful that they wouldn’t let me go to my high school football games. And I grew bitter as I got older, because she chose not to leave him.

I found ways to get out of the house, to escape the drunken reality. I sold chocolates door to door to make a $1 and buy myself shoes. I worked at the farmers market on weekends. I worked through high school to pay for my activities. My boyfriend paid for my prom. My sister paid for my senior day. And my journalism teacher surprised me with a yearbook.

I moved out at 18. Angry, bitter and free. Who knew that moment of freedom would begin a riptide of events?

The thing about “childhoods” is that you don’t realize how much damage is made, until you are much older. Until you see those same behaviors resemble in the partners we chose.

My first serious boyfriend babied me through my early 20’s. He took care of me and guided me through life’s first let downs.

My second boyfriend treated me like dirt, abused my soul, broke me to my core.

And my last boyfriend couldn’t put me back together.

I remember the first time he looked at me that way. I recognized that look because I saw it in my father. The moment he was no longer my dad but instead, the devil personified. His face turned red and his eyes looked vacant. I’ve seen that look so many times before.

It took well over a year to break the cycle. But one day, I looked at myself in the mirror but I couldn’t recognize my own face. Instead, I saw a weaker version of myself, I saw my mother looking right back at me. That was the last time he hurt me or humiliated me.

Como te ves, me vi. Como me ves, te verás.*

Sometimes, life is a little ridiculous. No matter how strong we claim to be, we don’t realize we are creating the same cycles for ourselves. I never looked back, but sometimes I can’t even believe it happened. It’s embarrassing, it makes me feel weak, it makes me feel like a victim. Some secrets are so easy to keep. So till this day, I find myself counting my steps, retracing my dreams, saying my fears out loud.

How can I prevent myself from falling in the same situation? Who am I? And how much does my childhood define me?

One day, after putting many, many years of work into journalism, my parents were in town, and my boss told me to invite them to the studios for a tour. This was my “I made it, ma!” moment. Better yet, my “¡Si se puede!” moment. But they didn’t come.

And that’s when I knew. That some cycles NEED to be broken. And I, no matter how similar to my father and my mother, will never be them.

I am an immigrant, a minority, a woman, I am college educated. I broke my mother’s cycle. If I ever have children, I will support their dreams and guide them through life. I know this because I am NOT my parents. I don’t need them to support my dreams anymore, and for that reason, I’ll be 100 times stronger than they’ll ever be.

Como te ves, me vi. Como me ves, te verás.*

I’ll tell my children the same thing, except, they will have a much greater foundation of love. They will have a real role model.

*I once saw myself the way you see me. The way you see me now, you will one day see yourself.

About Mayra Montoya:
Bike rides, farmers markets, ganstah rap music and fresh flowers in my home.

Republished with permission of our amigos at