We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofManoela Finotti

My mother moved to America when she was pregnant with me. I was born seven months after she arrived. She was all alone with no family to help her. My brother and sister joined us later. But my father refused to move to America. 

I accepted I didn’t have a dad at a young age. My mother took great care of me and always made sure I felt loved. But as I grew older I would begin to collect puzzle pieces of my father from my mother and older brother. I remember when my mother told me how my father wasn’t there when I arrived in this world. When I was little I didn’t pay much attention to these details because it didn’t seem important. But as I grew older, I didn’t think he was proud enough to accept I was on this earth. 

The only time I ever spoke to my father that I can remember is when I was around five or six years old. My mom said in a soft voice, “your father wants to talk to you.” I remember my reaction, I looked at my mother like “ what am I supposed to do?” I heard him call me by my nickname “ Manu.” But I just stared at my mom. I felt like time slowed down. I could feel my heart getting cold from the inside out shrinking smaller instead of growing warmer. I ended up not saying anything to him at all.  I handed the phone back to my mom just as he was saying, that he hoped I knew how much he loved me. Until this day, those words linger in my head, but only this brings up deep painful sorrows. `My family here stopped being in touch with my father soon after. Now all I remember is his voice sounding so innocent like he wanted to tell me more. Regret still hangs heavy on my shoulders. What if I just had given him a chance to talk to me?

Growing up, I never felt like I was actually home. Yes I lived in a house but it was no home to me because our extended family was not around us. Most of my family remained in Brazil. 

When I turned 16, this knowledge, or really lack of knowledge and connection with my family crushed me. I realized I didn’t know who I really was without growing with and learning from my grandma and grandpa. I've never gone to visit any family in Brazil.

I fell into a depressive state. I stopped keeping up with the people who cared for me. There would be weeks I’d lay in bed without eating a meal during the day. My days turned into showering and going back to bed repetitively. I stopped showing up to school which made things worse since my grades said so much about the situation I was in. I didn’t have my priorities straight, I had a zero in every class. 

Questioning my own life turned into a daily conversation with myself. I thought I could solve the trauma of not feeling a part of a family, but I knew I couldn't. I reached out to my older brother which helped more than I could’ve expected. I look up to him a lot. He helps me feel more connected in a way to myself, which helps me express myself to other people. He talks with me about my family and it is a bond we share. I still don’t feel connected to my extended family, but at some point I hope to visit Brazil. This made me want to change my perception of who I am, and what my purpose is moving forward. I don’t want to be afraid of what life brings to me, there will always be more life that starts a new beginning. 

© Manoela Finotti . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.