Because We Triumph celebrates the positive and powerful stories of women, I am never at a loss for finding inspiration. Celebrating these extraordinary women is one way in which I contribute to the #LeanInTogether initiative. One such story belongs to Belinda De La Cruz. I found Belinda through a wonderful online community group, Latina’s Think Big. I was included into this powerhouse site when I was searching for mentors for young Latina’s at The University of Florida before presenting a speech to their leadership group on the Economic Empowerment of Women. Latina’s Think Big was kind enough to offer suggestions for finding mentors for these young emerging Latina leaders.
I was drawn to Belinda’s post on the LTB Facebook page because of the photo she posted of her son’s college graduation. Mom and son were beaming with enthusiasm, celebrating his graduation this year, and hers last year. The pride and joy in that one photo spoke volumes to me about perseverance, love, and legacy.
I reached out to Belinda because I just knew that there was more to her story of triumph within that beautiful photo. Belinda has faced many physical and emotional challenges in her life, including a mysterious and sometimes fatal heart condition, being a young mother, and hearing loss, but she is a strong woman built through trials and faith. Her tenacity and capacity to love have grown in unison in her garden of life.
I believe that through sharing our stories of overcoming and triumphing through our struggles, we lift and encourage each other to ‘Keep on keeping on!” Whatever you are facing in a struggle today, remember that you CAN TRIUMPH TOO! Believe it! Let other women who triumph encourage you! We can get through anything in life together!
Belinda is very humble about her own strength and accomplishments, please let her know how inspiring SHE is!
Belinda, please tell me about your background:
I was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico in 1974. My father joined the U.S. Army a few years after I was born. My mother and I moved to Tacoma, Washington with my father, where he was stationed. After my father completed his 4 year active duty term, he transitioned to the Army reserve. We then moved to Jersey City, New Jersey where my father continued his U.S. Army career and worked full-time as a mechanic. I was their only child for ten years until my brother was born. Three years after my brother’s birth, my sister was born. Today, I’m a Sr. Project Coordinator for Insight Enterprises, Inc., listed on the Fortune 500, which is an Arizona-based global technology company that focuses on business-to-business and information technology for enterprises.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my children. They are my pride and joy. I am the mother of three wonderful boys; ages 23, 11, and 10, and my husband has a daughter from a previous relationship. They are each unique in their own ways but they each have a little piece of me in them. I see myself in their smiles, their patience, and even their anxiety over homework assignments. They truly are wonderful boys. My husband and I are very proud of our children.
I’m also proud of my marriage. My goodness, marriage is not easy! However, when you are married to the right person, it makes everything worth it. My husband and I have been married for 15 years and we get asked how we make it work. It is a really difficult question for us to answer because regardless of the amount of self-help books that are available or the endless amounts of articles that have been written to offer marriage advice, there really is no manual for a long-lasting marriage. You just have to want it enough to fight for it and to keep it together. The glue to your marriage cannot be your children or obligations. The glue to your marriage must be true love. It is the only thing that will endure all the hard times. Our marriage is like a cord of three strands or as it is also called, God’s knot.
I am also very proud of my mother for not giving up on me when I was very young. I had heart surgery when I was 7 years old. Prior to this surgery, no one knew what was wrong with me. I was often fatigued and looked very frail. My mother took me to three physicians and each one dismissed her and said that I was perfectly fine. Finally, my mom took me to a fourth doctor, Dr. Levine; I’ll never forget his name. He discovered the problem; Patent Ductus Arteriosus .He was truly heaven sent.
When my parents drove me to the hospital they did not tell me where I was going or why, but I knew that something was wrong. They didn’t want to alarm me. I remember seeing my mother cry the entire drive to the hospital and my father comforting her while I lay in the back seat of the car looking up at the sky. I did not know what was going on but I knew that something wasn’t right. Upon our arrival at the hospital, my mother broke down and cried and I cried with her (still not knowing what was happening). I had heart surgery in August of 1981. I was in the hospital for two weeks. I can’t ever repay my parents for going above and beyond to help me even when several doctors found nothing wrong. My mom knew that something wasn’t right and she looked for answers despite being turned away from several experts.
What have been your biggest challenges, trials, or periods of struggle, and how did you get through them?
One of my biggest trials was when I became pregnant with my son at the age of 19. I was enrolled in college in Manhattan. I eventually had to drop because I commuted to school by subway and also had to walk several “New York City” blocks to get there. It was challenging because I felt as though I let myself down but more importantly I felt as though I let my family down.
I lived at home with my parents during my pregnancy. I was a very young and scared girl and I use the term girl because that is what I was, just a girl. Here I was, pregnant and only 19 years old. I was going to have to become an adult very fast but not just an adult; a mother. During those periods when I felt so alone and as though I never wanted to leave my bedroom because I felt so ashamed, I would often hold my Bible and just skim through it.
One day I stumbled across the Bible verse Joshua 1:9 which reads: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” It touched my heart tremendously. I held on to those words the remainder of my pregnancy.
My son, Joshua, was born on May 8, 1993. Soon after his birth, I began working full-time to take care of him. To me, going back to school was not an option. I felt as though that ship had sailed. However, with the help and support of my husband (Joshua’s step-father), I enrolled back in school and I earned my Bachelor of Science of Psychology degree in 2015. The journey with my son became even more beautiful when I watched him graduate from Rutgers University on May 18, 2016 with a degree in Criminal Justice. I did it scared, ALL OF IT. I was frightened when I was pregnant, I was terrified when I began my first job ever, I was even more terrified when I met my husband and began to expand our family, and I was sick to my stomach when I enrolled back in college after so many years. I did it scared BUT I did it.
What is the best advice anyone has given you?
I’d have to say that the best advice that someone has given me is the advice that I repeatedly heard from my mother. In Spanish it is: “Dime con quien tu andas, y te tire quien tu eres.” The translation is, “Tell me who you are keeping company with and I will tell you who you are”. In other words, she would remind me to be careful about the company that I kept. She believed that people pick up bad habits from others if they are around them long enough. She is still a firm believer of this and reiterates this same advice to my three boys. I believe that this advice taught me how to be careful and mindful about those around me. I believe that this same advice is also why my marriage has lasted as long as it has. My husband and I are very careful about who we allow in our home or in our lives in general. The world that we live in today is full of so many good people but at the same time, there are very malicious people out there and nowadays it is difficult to tell who is who.
To what do you credit your perseverance?
I credit my perseverance to my late father. My father had tremendous patience, sometimes too much. However, when he accepted a task, he made sure it was done perfectly. When I was in elementary school and I needed supplies for school projects, my father would get me whatever I needed and I would work on my project even if I had to lose sleep. Ironically, I had to embrace that very same perseverance and apply it more than ever in 2011 when my father became very ill and was given months to live. It was as an absolutely difficult time in our lives.
My siblings and I became my mother’s pillars and we also became our dying father’s support. My father passed away in March of 2011, at home in the bedroom that he shared with my mother. My siblings and I were in the room with him, while my mother wept in another room waiting and praying for a miracle. I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath. I still don’t know where my strength came from but having been asked this question about my perseverance; I know now that perseverance is what took the wheel. I needed to be there for my mother. There was no question about it. Losing one parent is hard and the mere thought of my mother becoming ill herself over the loss of my father allowed me to stand firm and be where God intended me to be.
Perseverance has become my best friend. I recently found out that I am suffering from bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I knew that I had an issue long before this diagnosis. It is now at the age of 42, that I look back and think, “Wow, all that time….all THIS time…how did I get through life?”
For me, it’s sort of like having flashbacks and our life is playing back like a movie, remembering that time in 4th grade when I asked my teacher to speak louder because I was sick, my ears were clogged (more so than the ears of a child with normal hearing would be). She ignored my request and I couldn’t hear a word she said all day. Also, I always wanted to sit in the front of the class, not to be the teacher’s pet, but to simply hear better. All these things became second nature to me. I cannot tell you the amount of stress that I have had to endure all my life as a result of this hearing issue that I only recently addressed for the first time.
Yet, I was an honor student in elementary school and in high school, and as mentioned earlier, I obtained my degree.
I have been working since the age of 19 when I landed my first office job and I’m still working full-time today. All these things that I have accomplished and I am accomplishing are by the grace of God. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to obtain hearing aids and I’m now beginning a new chapter in my life. I am truly blessed.
Belinda, your story is a testimony to the power of faith, strength, and tenacity! You are an accomplished woman and wonderful role model for others who face adversity that might seem limiting to living a full life. You prove that anything is possible! Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring story with WeTriumph!