We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows.. - Buddh
What you focus on grows in your life and from what you take your focus away from diminishes. I grew up in what I believed to be the heart of Los Angeles. To me, it was the place just east of downtown but to most, it is the most dangerous place in Los Angeles because it is gang infested, drug filled and violence seems to be found in every block. Believe it or not, growing up, I never saw it that way. Yes I saw gangs but I never feared them, I saw drugs but I never took any, I heard of the horrible violent acts that happened around me but I can tell you, I never saw them with my own eyes. I grew up in a very strict home where I feared my mom more than any Cholo (gang member) and I respected and enjoyed my family more than any drug.
Most of the things you might hear about Boyle Heights may not be nice and may actually be scary. Growing up, I had no idea that my neighborhood was so bad. I wasn't blind but my parents always managed to remind us how lucky we were to be living in the US vs. the small town in Mexico where they grew up. They would always point out how this was better than that. I did grow up believing this was paradise. I had little to compare it to but I trusted my parents. I grew up believing I was blessed and abundant. I always felt lucky to be from the east part of LA. I learned so much growing up there. Boyle Heights prepared me for corporate America where some corporate executives are more insecure, mean and could be less trusted than any gang member I ever came across. Growing up in the middle of two conflicting gangs taught me survival skills. The only way to walk in my neighborhood was without fear, with your head up high, looking at people straight forward and always doing the right thing. I learned about win-win and the art of negotiating. Nobody likes to loose or be taken advantage of. At a young age I learned that if you do your best, always look out and protect your interest without abusing anybody else and always with respect for others, everyone wins. Win-win is the best possible outcome in business; it is based on the art of negotiating and building long lasting relationships.
Now more than ever I realize how blessed I was for growing up where I did. My street was made up of Japanese, Jews and some recent Mexican immigrants. I learned about respect, tolerance and prejudice. My neighbor’s parents & grandparents had been in concentration camps in Europe and in the US. I grew up hearing about atrocities on Japanese-Americans and Jews. I learned that being quiet and polite was not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and survival. I grew up appreciating other cultures. We had celebrations every month, if it wasn't a Jewish Holiday, it was a Buddhist celebration and of course there were also the Catholic, Mexican and American celebrations. Most Sundays after church my dad would fire up the grill and everyone in the neighborhood would show up with Meat, salads and sweets. All the kids would play as the adults would talk about current affairs. Growing up I had my own Bento box, at 12 was given a bat mitzvah gift, at 15 I was the center of attention at my quinceanera party and for my sweet 16 birthday I was given my first little diamond ring, how lucky can a girl be? Boyle Heights is a very poor neighborhood yet because of poverty I develop my creativity and eye for beauty. One of my best friends from HS grew up to become a vintage car collector and car connoisseur. He can spot scraps in a junk yard and turn them into beautiful restored hundred thousand dollar automobiles. Just like him, I learned to look at things with different eyes. I studied the beauty in most things new and old. I learned about ecology and recycling. Since we didn't have the money to buy new clothing, I would spend weekends at thrift shops way before vintage was in. I taught myself to appreciate vintage and now I am proud to say, I own an amazing, Pucci and Chanel collection that would make any Paris Hilton envious.
The people I met growing up are still my friends. We don’t see each other often and sometimes years go by before we fold a tortilla together but I know that they are there, that they will always have my back and that they will always tell me the truth. I find comfort in that. I can sit here and tell you all the bad things that have happened in my life but I choose to not give them power. I choose instead to look at my blessed and lucky life. I am lucky to have traveled the world. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to work for amazing companies and hold impressive titles. Outside of Boyle Heights, I have also lived in opulent neighborhoods like, Beverly Hills, Sutton Place and Coconut Grove. I have shopped and dressed myself from LA thrift shops as well as from Via Candiotti in Italy and the Faubourg Saint-Honoré district in Paris. I honestly believe that growing up having very little has helped me appreciate every day and everything that I have now. I have learned not to take anything for granted.Everything in my life has happened as it should; one thing prepared me for the next. We can all dwell on the bad things in our lives but let’s choose to see life as nothing short of magical, special and amazing. Abundance is in our mind and it is reachable to all. The concept of riches extends beyond money and if you look, you will find that you are rich already. Each person has the ability to change their life by simply changing their perspective.
We are in the bigenning of Spring and this year will be the type of year you believe it will be. Nobody has more power over your life than yourself. The past does not determine your future and definitely does not dictate your present. I choose to see this year as a year of joy and abundance. I feel more at peace with myself than ever. I have been lucky and blessed all my life and I know, without a doubt, that this year will be no different. If you want something, start visualizing it because whatever you see, you will get. Whatever you focus on expands, focus well. See the blessings and you will have them.