What do you write?

There is a common thread among people who learn of my writing. “What do you write?,” they ask. . .sometimes I immediately want to say, what don’t I write but that does not satisfy the answer. I feel as though I write everything, so to me what matters most is why I write. I am a very spontaneous person in my every day conversational life. I say things unfiltered, I have my foot in my mouth half of the time and I mostly prefer that things be that way, with my foot as far away from the brakes as possible. I guess because at the core I am after all open to most people who ask questions with the right intention, however that is a very raw version of me. Yet, there are times when I like to sit back in my thoughts and let things process and do all the feeling that 100 mile a minute me does not give herself the opportunity to sort through.

Have you ever seen a movie that has that one scene where everyone else is doing one thing but one particular character stands out. There they are moving around aimlessly while everyone else in the scene is either frozen in time or on the flip side, the whole world is moving around them and they are stagnant. That person is me. Not left behind so to speak or going in one direction without a particular goal. . .but merely in observation of everything and everyone. Right now what I am sorting through is perspective. We all have them. . .good, bad or illogical our perspectives make complete sense to us but sometimes it is good to see things from another point of view.

There are two reactions I receive whenever I tell people I have a son in high school. . .it is either “Oh my god, you don’t look old enough to have a teenager,” to which I always smile in delight, or there is the, “Oh wow, sorry must be tough.” I guess with the way that a lot of kids act lately the latter response is warranted however it is sad. Why do people have such poor expectations of teenagers, they must forget who raised this generation.

As my son has gotten older, we have developed a different kind of relationship, one that I myself am amazed with. I understand him better than I ever have. He can articulate his feelings and without using these exact words he knows how to let me know when I am being a jerk. I am definitely one of those moms who takes no crap, however, I am human. I have yelled too much, or expected too much and even at times shared too much. I hurt feelings, I brighten his day, I am sure I even inflict terror but those are all things of a very wide spectrum of parenting.

The first time I held him in my arms I was so afraid. How could someone trust clumsy little me with such precious cargo? I will admit, I dropped him a few times but never on his head, (Jon if you read this, sorry, I love you, forgive me). Yet somehow we have arrived at the age where I can say, in 4 years I will be done. Eighteen is not too far away but from here to then and from then and beyond there is no such thing as done. I cherish every moment with this boy. I could spend hours with him, recording videos on snap chat and playing them in slow motion just because it makes him laugh. . .not just any laugh but this bright smile straight from the heart laugh that makes anyone lose their breath because it feels so good to feel so alive in that moment. Moments go by so fast but I notice everything and there is nothing comparable to what I feel for my son. I look at him in awe because if not for me he would have never been born, I am responsible for him, but also I would not be here and happy if not for him.

I remember his face on my graduation day, it has only been about 8 months since then. I went back and forth in my mind for years. There were nights where I studied for hours, moments when I had to tell him, “not now,” long nights and early mornings and they all led up to that day. I always felt like I was taking something from him, the time and attention he deserved. I felt guilty and even still sometimes but the beauty of life is that you get what you get when you need it most. I walked across the stage as they called my name and in the crowd there he was with a group of my closest family and friends. I held my composure and my excitement. I crossed my tassel the the left and I made my way outside to meet my friends. I hugged everyone as they came out, and anxiously awaited my sons arrival from inside the stadium. Suddenly there he was, he rushed to me, hugged me and as he cradled my head in his hand he said to me, “everything you have done, has been for me, I am proud of you mom.” . . .and then I lost it. Why? Because perspective. We tarnish a lot of things because of perspective. I felt like a bad mother because of my perspective but Jonathan’s perspective was all I needed to realize that mine was clouded. I am so thankful for my son and happy to be filling the pages of our lives with irreplaceable moments.  



The Hardest Chapter

The sky scraping mountains

that you turned into sand

No longer chains

Holding you back


These details that made you

A page turning success

The reason you view life

As if you were blessed


Because of the worse

You’ve been through is gone

No longer overcoming

Finally you belong


Yet the haunting story

Of this chapter did end

It has yet to see the light

So that you may fully mend


How do you expose

The truth you held close

That through the resilience

You have yet to be whole


You aged at a pace

Leaving behind all your friends

Grown woman decisions

Before schools end


This open book that you know

Ripped out pages from the past

But in order to move on

You must glue them back


A full circle story

For the world to understand

That the one god gave her

Was less than a man


This is my true story

With the last chapter in tow

Through clenched eyes and tears

Will be finally told


By: Me (Johanna Arroyo 6/5/2015)

It’s never too late

I think that there are times when we underestimate ourselves. I don’t mean this in the sense that we could try harder, or do better but in the fact that some of us make light of what we’ve been through.

We are so often afraid of being weak or perceived as less than. More often than not we make a mention that other people have been through worse. All the while we dismiss the opportunity to realize we too have been through some hard times.

I was watching a video on Upworthy a few weeks back about a woman talking about coming out of the closet. She said that we all come out of the closet at some point in our lives. I couldn’t agree with her more! She said, hard is hard, there is no clear distinction and definition of what life events are harder than the other. . .the bottom line is that we all go through hard stuff, we all have hard conversations to have, we all have to come out of our comfort zoned ie closets and face those hards topics.

For many years there have been things I’ve battled with internally. However I found that because I was resilient that I was not allowed to classify them as hard. I told myself all the time, “others have been through worse!” I was okay with that until one day a few years ago, and again today after a motivational speaker came and spoke at a training/meeting I was attending.

Growing up I was raised by my mother and grandfather. My father went to jail when I was approximately five years old and after that, my mothers foundation and backbone went missing. I can’t say that I remember my mom before, I don’t know my mom in any other capacity than the woman who was emotionally fragile.

I was a vivacious child, always seeking attention and always hoping to finally shine the spotlight on me in the chance that my mom might once take a glance at me. My mother was preoccupied putting hot meals on the table and clothing us. I am absolutely grateful for that but while she spent hours upon hours providing for me and my siblings, she rarely spent a moment consoling my heart that eroded over time.

I took a liking to my grandfather. I ran to him every time I hurt myself. I sat on his lap as he played guitar. I danced and played in his room while he watched his tv shows. I was very much present in his life, while I was barely a glimmer of light in my mothers.

When my grandfather passed away, any semblance of love was gone. My one parent, support system and symbol of love was gone. I can count the few times in my life that my mother even mumbled the words I love you. I make allowances for her because she was raised by my grandmother, whom in my experience was frigid and cold. I felt bad for mom and for some reason made it okay for her to not have loved me enough. It was hard to feel invisible but because I knew it was hard for my mother, I let her slide again and again.

All I ever wanted was effort. I was an excellent student and I wanted her to come and hear it from my teachers but it never happened. I needed hugs and warm embraces and instead I was treated with snacks and cakes to comfort me instead of the one thing I truly desired.

My mother was institutionalized several times in my life. My mother was at times suicidal and even once tried to kill herself and us all while trying to drive against traffic in one of the busiest intersections in Tampa. Fortunately my sister was there to yank the steering wheel.

I went to 8 different elementary schools and somehow I kept up. I don’t have true childhood friends because it was impossible to keep up. I never went to one school more than a year before we moved on to the next apartment lease.

I thank my mother because I was raised to face adversity but I don’t appreciate the fact that she raised me emotionally incapacitated. I was so broken for years.

I’m sorry comes so easy to me, I hate being wrong, especially on my own. I love to clear the air and I try my best to make my love for people known.

This afternoon while the speaker gave her message I began to tear up. She confirmed something that I thought was silly because my hard situation may not be as bad as someone else’s.

A few years ago I got into an argument with my mother. I was angry like never before. The dynamic had changed and I no longer was the only one she disappointed. My son had been playing soccer for five seasons in what is quite literally her back yard. Not once did she show up. He had practices and games and on more than one occasion he had championships. My son began to ask me, why his grandmother didn’t love him. I had no real explanation other than, this is just the way grandma is.

I finally had enough!

The last time I’d seen my father was when I was 11 years old. My father is a criminal, a registered sex offender, and as such could not have contact with us. I was not his victim but I was related to the victim. On this particular day after I argued with my mother, I was devastated. I had never even raise my voice at my mother but I was so angry because after years of making excuses for her, nothing had changed. So I looked up my father. Unfortunately and fortunately there is a website for people like him, so I obtained his address. (This is clearly complicated and understandable if people don’t comprehend but I know where my intentions were.)

I mapped his address, which was barely 15 minutes from me and I went to see him. I don’t know what I wanted. I could take care of myself, and I didn’t want answers. I think parts of me wanted to see him before it was too late. He wasn’t home when I arrived so I started to leave. Just as I was leaving he pulled in. I have to admit that I was initially relieved when he wasn’t home and now that he was, I began to wonder what I was actually there for. I got nervous.

For years I resented him for the life I lived because of his poor choices. This man was the former illicit drug user, alcoholic and sexual offender, but somewhere in the trenches of that lost soul was the few and only memories I had of whom I affectionately called, “Papi.” There was the man who called me Junji, the man who took me to get vanilla icecream cones with rainbow sprinkles every day to the Carvel in our backyard. To this very day, that is my favorite treat. I love the ocean because he loved fishing and I can play dominoes just like he did. I also happen to share his face and a birthmark over the side of my nose that he also has.

This man with the good and bad memories was now standing before me wondering who I was. I recognized him immediately because he wore a thick gold chain around his neck, just as he did when I was a child. I stepped in closer and I said, “hi, I’m your daughter Johanna.” He hugged me and immediately my emotions got the best of me. I stood there a 26 year old woman but in his arms I was a sobbing child. I didn’t speak a word and he hugged me and said repeatedly, “I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault!”

I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I heard something foreign and felt parented in the first time in ages. There it was, finally, an apology. Admittance that everything I went through as a child wasn’t handed to me because I’d earned it. It. Was. Not. My. Fault.

In the 29 years I’ve been living, that was the first and last time any one of my parents have ever apologized for anything. That is what I needed more than anything. I needed permission to say my life was hard, but it wasn’t my fault! I needed someone to say, it sucked but it’s going to get better. My dad stood there and apologized until the words could no longer catch up to his tears.

I haven’t seen my dad since, and I don’t know that I ever will, but on that day in his arms I was able to let go, forgive and fix a little part of my broken heart.

You can

Hopes are low, aims off
Too many C average lives
They’ll say you can’t do it
It feels like a knife

Because someone once couldn’t
And failed to think twice
Cold hearted tough love
Seemed to be right

Brush it off and set the stage
Show them what its like
To fight for it
And do things right

The doubt of those
Who turned their backs
Not realizing
One step closer
Is where it was at

They look at you
With a question in their eyes
They cast their own doubts
It’s hard to realize

They quit seconds
From the finish line
They let someone else
Make up their mind

Little girl
Don’t get your hopes up
You’ll be disappointed
You can’t do
What they didn’t
You’ll fail, I know it

They’ll be surprised
Share blank stares
No there is no way
She took advantage
Of our missed chances

Become a giant
Among many men
Ignore the chant
Of failed attempts
Show them you can
And re-trend the trend

Become a leader
A new norm of the century
Recapture the hope
Of a child, it’s rudimentary

They’ll dare to impose
Upon those who will
Surpass their hopes
Create a yes for a past no
You aimed high when they aimed low

Little girl you can’t
And won’t ever give up
Not for lack of a choice
But for the fact that
You have one

Choose to give up
And someone else has won
Choose to never give up
And who knows
You may inspire them
To do what once
was thought undone

By: Me (Johanna Arroyo, March 25, 2013)

*another late night poem on my cell phone

Belize Dat!


It has been a while since I shared a little piece of me with the world. I had such an amazing time in Belize and met a wonderful group of people. The fact that we got to know each other under such bare and raw circumstances made us all vulnerable to show the people we typically are. It was a great feeling to be among my peers and to see professors outside of their usual elements. These experiences took me away from home but I couldn’t help but to feel at ease with my surroundings.

One day we were in the Cahoon Trail, after getting over mosquito bites and taking in the environment, I found myself at one with my location. Belize was not home but it was an island much like that of my grandfathers and in that I found comfort. After our field observations in the Cahool trail we had a discussion back at Hill bank and had to share our observation. Here is what I wrote and thus shared with my classmates:

“There is a unique kind of silence in the Cahoon Trail that gives center stage to the insects and birds to create a symphony of noises. Back at home we tend to live on wants, in sitting here in this unfamiliar place, where the natural way of living is giving back, I can see the beauty in it all. This place is home to a symposium of creatures. Tree’s enveloped by thorns, vines and moss, while leaves of all shapes and sizes sprout from the ground and fan the sky. Musky water and a kaleidoscope of greens decorate this environment of natural unaltered beauty.”


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. . . .I am so grateful that every day I am faced with new experiences that allow me to take in the world I know and make it just a little better day after day. I continue to learn from my mistakes and experiences and Belize was another one of those moments. My experiences in Belize were a fraction of the life of a true Belizean but I can admit that I came home a little less me and a bit more island girl.


In the forefront, yes I came home and appreciated my flushing toilet and flat iron but Belize was something I wish I could share with everyone back home. At no moment while in Belize did I tell anyone they just had to see my flushing toilet, or experience all of my vanities from Tampa. I found that when I returned back to Tampa I was wishing I could do more than just tell my story of my experiences in Belize. I took picture after picture but nothing captured the feeling of being inundated in the beauty and day to day of Belize. When we went to the Belize Zoo I saw a sign that said, “We live in a Beautiful world.” I agree that the world is beautiful and I am sad to say that I had to strip myself from my self-taught behavior to truly realize the beauty of the world. Sky scrapers and flashy lights certainly catch the eye but nothing beats swimming harmoniously among the reefs and seeing beauty eye to eye.

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I never thought in my life that I could see the world from the top of a Mayan Temple. I look at myself and often wonder, how I, just the little girl with the big smile from Tampa has been able to meet so many people and do so many extraordinary things. I am truly blessed and continue to find the beauty in life!