Last month, I was a featured speaker at the Sponsorship for Influencers event in Houston, which is about a 5-hour drive from my home in Fort Worth, Texas. I was excited I could be part of this event because I’ve had to cancel many of my speaking events that required longer travel.
During the Entrepreneur Success Panel, we were asked the question of our biggest regret when building our business. It was an interesting moment for me because I’m interviewed a lot and that question has come up quite a bit, and I’d always have the same answer.
But not this time.
I mean, I thought about “that answer” but I thought about it differently and so I gave a different answer. Something like:
I believe in Divine Timing, self-forgiveness, and grace. I don’t regret the choices I made because they’ve led me where I am today.
I used to say I regretted working too much, not resting, not eating, and neglecting myself so much that I ended up with cancer. You would have probably agreed with me on that answer, but my regret was actually that I was unable to take care of my daughters like they needed and I didn’t have a support group, so I was forced to send them to the Dominican Republic with my family while I was in treatment.
I still consider those months the hardest of my life, but the lessons I learned were precious to me and, believe it or not, the cancer and the loneliness brought with them a lot of blessings, including one of the biggest blessings I can count to this day: my daughters had the privilege, honor, and opportunity to get to know, learn from, and spend time with my grandpa.
Marcus Garvey said:
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
During that precious time, my daughters learned about their roots, their identity, and where they come from. That’s why I can’t really regret what I used to consider my biggest mistake.
Knowing where you come from is essential to discovering who you truly are. As eternal, divine beings, we are always evolving, and there is so much to unearth, to unlock, and uncover about our own identity.
Self-discovery fascinates me because I think that as we get farther in the process of finding out who we are, we get closer to one another and to God.
I love what Maya Angelou said about how our pasts impact who we are:
I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.
Staying connected with our ancestors, studying our family history, and seeking to find more clues about where we come from can add more meaning to our lives and help us make sense of who we are.
Do you know exactly where you come from?
Being from an island on the Caribbean means that I am a mix of many races and many cultures, and we like to represent that with the traditional “faceless doll,” which I display prominently on a shelf with other special treasures.
Among his many stories, my grandpa would tell us how we were part Filipino, which actually made sense because of our features, height, and many of our traditions.
I always strive to tell my daughters every possible story I can tell about their great-grandparents, about my childhood, about what it means to be a Latina, a Dominican, a Fernández.
I’ve taught them to cook our signature foods, to dance merengue and bachata, to speak Spanish, and to honor our unique and rich culture.
When I found out I am expecting my fourth daughter, I decided to name her Elydia because I want to honor my grandma Fernández, her strength, her love, and her example to me!
Discovering My DNA Story
Because of my deep connection with my grandparents and my thirst to know more about the people that have come before me, I decided to take the AncestryDNA test and start deciphering my family history.
I spit in a tube from a DNA testing kit and mailed it off to the Ancestry.com lab in a a pre-paid box and in less than two weeks I had a notification in my e-mail saying that my results were in. It was one of those experiences you never forget and I felt like my grandparents were proud of me for taking this step.
My Ethnicity Estimate was a bit shocking to me:
7% Native American
2% Middle Eastern
1% Southern Asian
The breakdown of the countries and regions where my ancestors traveled to and from was enlightening to me.
What was most exciting was that AncestryDNA started connecting me with possible family members and I’ve made amazing connections with some of them!
Knowing my DNA story has changed how I see myself and how I feel about who I am.
It has helped me make sense of so much that I wasn’t aware of consciously – like how I married into a family of Portuguese ancestry, or how I was obsessed to learn Italian fluently “just because.”
My DNA Story somehow explains why I am so connected to my African roots and why I am so intense about African American history and rights.
I was expecting to be a whole lot more Asian on my DNA, and it just goes to show how multi-dimensional we are as people and how there is so much that makes us who we are: nature and nurture both at play.
Getting Started With Family History
Just like knowing the many cultures in your origin helps you understand who you are, knowing who came before you is an integral part of knowing yourself.
When I started reading the Bible as a child, it was the only book we owned, so my brother and I read it a lot of times, from cover to cover. I was really confused why there was so much space dedicated to genealogy.
You know how in your youth you think you know better or could have done a better job than everyone else?
I thought the Bible could be better if you replaced all that lineage information with inspirational passages, concrete advice, and answers to so many questions that I had and “couldn’t” find there.
As I grew and studied my Scriptures more deeply and my faith grew, I learned that knowing your ancestors is important in the process of finding yourself. Your ancestors are part of who you are.
Over the years, I’ve developed a personal belief that I will reunite with my ancestors in the after life, so this adds meaning to my efforts of getting to know their stories.
I feel fortunate that my daughters had a chance to meet my grandpa and experience the people and places I grew up with, because they have a better overall picture of our family heritage and our family history.
When we teach our kids to have reverence, gratitude, respect for those who came before them and paved the way, we are linking generations forever.
Starting a Family Tree is a fun and visual way to get started with Family History because it engages the kids senses in a concept they can easily understand.
Interviewing their grandparents and other family members is another fun way to get the kids excited about Family History and family stories.
My sister has dedicated a lot of her time to genealogy work and has gathered records, photos, stories, and priceless family information that is a treasure to us.
This is something I know I want to be more involved in if I am blessed with other seasons in my life.
For now, my contribution to our Family History has been through storytelling, preserving my stories for my posterity, so they can learn from my unique experiences.
Having been the first in my family to come as an immigrant the USA and the only current US Citizen, my daughters consider me a pioneer and have so much appreciation for the sacrifices I’ve made and what that means to me.
I take my responsibility as an ancestor to future generations very seriously.
I want my descendants to learn from me, I pray that my words will inspire them, that my mistakes will teach them, that my wise choices will guide them, and that my love for my ancestors and the meaningful memories of them can be passed on as a legacy to them.
As I dream of having a great spiritual impact on those who will come after me, I understand that I can do the same to honor the ones that came before me.
Is that a different kind of circle of life? I believe it is.
Why Family History Matters
Family History captures the essence of our history and that’s why it is part of our core identity.
Besides helping you know where you come from geographically and in creating a family tree, here are some ways in which I believe family history matters.
- Family history helps you figure out your medical history so you can make informed decisions about your health
- Family history helps you make accurate choices in family planning
- Family history helps you decide places to travel to and cultures to learn about
- Family history helps you form a deeper bond with your children as you learn about your history together
- Family history helps you create a deeper connection with other people in the world – our global family
- Family history helps you network and foster friendships with other family historians and genealogy enthusiasts
- Family history helps you develop a sense of purpose, carrying on a positive legacy that your ancestors started
- Family history helps you understand how your cultural background influences who you are today
- Family history helps you feel more compassion for living relatives and desire to learn the stories behind their actions
- Family history helps inspire resilience as we see the challenges, hardships, and trials our ancestors survived and overcame
- Family history helps you grow spiritually in seeing the full picture and eternal perspective of life
- Family history helps you learn about selflessness and sacrifice
- Family history helps you have a wider awareness of destructive patterns in the family that can be avoided
and so much more!
Start Your Own Family History Journey
Having an awareness of your ancestors helps you define who you are today and set the course for who you can become.
If you’d be interested to start your own Family History journey and explore where exactly you come from, I encourage you to take advantage of the Ancestry.com $59 Special so you can save $40 from the original $99 price until 8/26/19.
Let me know if you have any questions about Family History in the comments below. I consider you family. xoxo
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM
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