Personal Narrative, 2023

V-DAY by Donna DeStefano

I was in my 30’s and newly in love. After dating for a few years, my boyfriend and I moved in together. We found a small apartment in midtown Manhattan and loved every part of making our new place feel like home. We enjoyed cooking together as much as going out together. We went to see all the Broadway shows and kept a close eye on the downtown theaters showcasing new artists. I loved being in love with him, and he treated me like I was his center. We respected each other and it showed.

It was the best of times.

By the time he and I were married, I started my new business in the entertainment industry. I’m a talent manager with 20 or so clients, working in theater, film and TV. My husband, being an artist himself, was thrilled and eager to help me with this Herculean effort to get my company up and running successfully. Our days were long and every night, we were seeing shows or going to events and openings. We met so many of the people we long admired. Actors we loved, directors we read about. We were invited to readings of new plays, seeing the inner workings of acclaimed playwrights as they develop their work. Within the first few years of my new venture, one of my clients made his Broadway debut, the same weekend that 2 films were released, one with my husband in a small role and another with one of my clients as the lead.

This should have been the very best of times, but I knew deep down inside that something was wrong.

One evening, we were invited to a small get together at the home of someone I have endless admiration for, Eve Ensler (now called “V”) of the Vagina Monologues. The most courageous, brilliant, provocative woman of our time. I was so excited. It took me forever to figure out what to wear, what to bring. I memorized all of her monologues, just in case it came up in conversation. I was and still am in absolute awe of Eve. She created a global movement and ignited activism and awareness to the fight against violence against women and girls all over the world with the momentum of her play ( She is the epitome of how art can move mountains.

We arrived at Eve’s apartment, my heart was racing and as I went to remove my coat, I could see my husband remove his, he had a flask in his pocket. In that split second, everything changed.

He was hiding his alcohol consumption. His behavior was becoming more and more bizarre. Our lives were becoming unmanageable. He would drink too much, I would beg him to stop. He would stay out late. I stopped coming home.

I left him a few years ago and our divorce was finalized during the pandemic. It’s been a brutal few years. He has been in and out of the hospital. He was homeless at one point and I couldn’t accept that, I let him stay with me for a bit. He lives in a facility in the Bronx and I have a beautiful apartment in Fairfield, CT. I’ll always feel guilty somehow and this pain will most likely stay with me forever.

Recently, I started sharing my story and have helped other people in my situation. I don’t know the ending yet, but I can keep an eye out for women like Eve (V). She took her pain and translated it into a movement of change. Hopefully someone can take the reins here and create change for those suffering with addiction.

Addiction is killing our young people, our artists, our communities and something needs to be done. This can be our time for change.

The Power of Letting Go: The Things I Can’t Control by Emily Salas

As humans grow older we learn to have a better sense of control over the things we know how to deal with in our everyday lives, but someone who is just learning the ropes of what having “control” is might not know how to deal with things when situations arise. This is a process that goes on until we die; we might think we know, but there will always be faults. This story is about how I learned to let go of the things I cannot control and accept that life is what it is.

When I was in the 4th grade I had a friend named Daniela. Her family came here from Guatemala and she spoke very little English. She was my first real best friend. When I was 8 my mother was deported. There are days where I wish I couldn’t recall any details, but for this one particular day in February, it’s as clear as day. I had just finished school and luckily my bus stop was approximately 50 steps away from my house; no one came to pick me up from my bus stop which was unusual. I got home to a not so inviting house. My brother was the only one there. I would usually be welcomed with the grace of my father’s arms, preparing to pick up my mother at the Greenwich hospital where she worked for many years. Instead I am an 8 year old girl afraid to be in my room alone and hide in my brother’s room as I patiently wait for my father to 1 come home. Two hours pass and I’m now a bit frantic. As time passes my father calls saying he will be home soon and that he needs to speak to Louis, who is my brother. I don’t hear the conversation, but the look on my brother’s face says it all. As time passes my father still hasn’t arrived, but my sister does. She slams the front door and yells out “MOM IS IN MEXICO”. In that particular moment, I was standing at the top of the stairs watching my sister spill those words out of her mouth and fill the room. I scram into my parent’s room and run to the mirror where my mom and I would check to see if we looked pretty for the day. Tears fell, and that’s the end of it.

I was 8 years old and I was being told grandpa got sick and my mom had to leave urgently, but my dad was packing our home pictures in boxes, grabbing a sharpie and putting kitchen appliances into a storage closet where to this day I still haven’t been able to see that singing shark, which was placed on top of the fridge. I was 8 and I had to leave school for a couple of months to visit my mom in Mexico. When I arrived my mom told me the truth. She said, “you’re too young to understand what is going on, but someday you will understand”. I was 8 and understood everything too perfectly, I just couldn’t wrap my head around why me, why us, why this family? The day my mother was taken she was heading to work, she took the city bus that took her straight to the hospital. Instead she was picked up in an I.C.E. black car and hasn’t set foot on this land for 10 years now.

I was 11 and I got my period for the first time. It was the day before coming back to school from winter break. My brother, dad and I had just arrived home after eating dinner at the American Steak House in Norwalk, a place my family would go on occasions, always falling on a Sunday. I learned a trick online to put toilet paper on my underwear if no pad was accessible to me. I told my dad that I got my period and at that moment I knew he was going to be playing the 2 two parent role for a while. We went to Walgreens and bought maxi pads. My dad said, “these are the ones I bought for your mom”.

I was 13 and graduating middle school. My dad is in the stands and my mom is in Mexico watching her little and last girl graduate. She is sent pictures via Whatsapp and in the back of my head as I am getting my middle school diploma I am praying my mom didn’t lose signal.

I was 16 and the bras I once wore at the age of 12 did not fit me anymore. Sadly my father doesn’t know anything about bras, but remembers my mother’s bra size and we buy the same size. Like mother like, daughter. A couple days later my sister, comes to town with her boyfriend and we go to Marshalls to buy roughly five bras that lasted me quite some time.

I am 18 now and I am graduating high school. My mother was never able to see her other two kids get the diploma and I miss her more than ever.

I fought and beat depression and I learned to overcome the power of not fighting why my mother was taken from me, but instead it was something I could have never controlled. I learned to accept the things I can’t control. I learned to let go of the anger I had for the president at the time and to immigration, I learned to let go of the idea that maybe if my mother didn’t have me she would have had time to file her paperwork. My dad, sister, brother, my mom, and I will forever take the madness and sadness of the cruelty and destruction our family experienced, and we are still fighting to make it out alive. I miss my mom more than anything. I haven’t seen her in five years. I don’t know her smell, her face shape, the color of her hair, or if she is also fighting to stay alive just like the rest of us, but I know that 8 year old girl is still holding her mother and telling her to keep her in her arms just a little longer before the chaos of the world sweeps in under the door. I choose to not live with regret, to love more than ever and even on the days 3 where I need my mom the most I know I have her with me. I make an impact in other’s lives by proving that even such a terrible thing that could happen to someone. I am still here with a smile on my face. I surprised myself when I woke up one morning and the depression that had a hold on me for so long was something I overcame. I cannot control what happened to my mother, but I learned to let go and accept the power of letting go.

I was 8 and my best friend Daniela was still my best friend. We played in the playground and when swinging on the swing sets turned into texting, our friendship was gone. I learned to let go and understand we cannot control who walks in and out of our lives, but we can control how we react and go on. I see her around campus and I picture us when we were innocent. I see pictures of my mom on Instagram and try to imagine the happy times I had with her. I miss my mother everyday and it always hurts just a little more. If I could go back I wouldn’t do it all over again. She will always be my mother and I will always be her daughter. I learned to let go of the past and the haunting thoughts that give me anxiety. I found peace. As Miley Cyrus says in that one song, “Life’s a climb, but the view is great .”