You know, I fell into it.
It wasn’t actually what I was even planning to do.
Then again, I don’t really think I had a plan.
I’d tried and failed at corporate work—apparently I didn’t really enjoy working with grownups who acted like children, or maybe I was so young and fresh out of college and had such different interests that I really didn’t feel like I fit in. Either way, my corporate life was short-lived.
I was even a stay-at-home mom for a while but I swiftly became bored of simply being a mother, especially after binging on feminist literature from my hometown’s library for several months on end after graduating with a Women’s Studies and English degree from UCLA.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved having a kid. But I had grown accustomed to being much more than a caregiver from an early age.
I got “fired” from my first job after graduating from college. Ironically, I just recently got hired there again. But we’ll talk about that later.
I was desperate to find work and took what I could to make ends meet and to get out of the house, so I went into insurance for a while.
Unfortunately, that job didn’t make me much money and I quit.
After that, I joined a staffing agency that landed me several jobs but my status as a single mother and inspired, nocturnal stoner musician wasn’t exactly conducive to making me responsible in the workplace.
I realized I didn’t want to make money doing something I hated.
And you know what? I ALWAYS loved singing.
I loved singing since I was three years old, and I knew I wanted to sing…
But I was scared. I felt like I didn’t know enough. I felt like I didn’t look good enough. I didn’t even feel talented enough. I was worried about being a mom and singing. I was worried about neglecting my child for my musical career. I was simply completely hung up on my insecurities that I never really gave myself a chance. Not only that, but I self-sabotaged my chances all the time by engaging in unhealthy relationships.
I used to be signed, actually.
And I was so busy jamming with my ex and getting high every day that I would be late to auditions, not prepare properly for my opportunities…I even fell asleep at a recording session once after smoking entirely too much weed.
Gosh, I was really good at screwing things up for myself, mainly because I didn’t have the slightest clue about what I was doing. I had a desire, but I had no plans. I had a wish, a dream, but I could never quite stay awake long enough to focus fully on realizing it.
Not only that, but I was so insecure that I took any opportunity to get exposure without really fully discerning between what worked for me and what didn’t.
I was talented, educated, beautiful, smart, sexy, had a shitload of opportunities and people that believed in me, but I didn’t know what I wanted.
And then, my brother died.
When my brother died, I plunged into this terrible depression. I also quit my dead-end job after getting fired from my agency job for being late, irresponsible and unenthusiastic, not to mention half-asleep on the job for most of the day and consuming coffee candy from the Korean market through my entire eight-hour shift so I wouldn’t nod off at my desk.
I was overweight, poor, homeless and completely neglecting my daughter for a toxic relationship, letting her get watched by grandma all the time because I couldn’t seem to get my shit together.
I had tons of traffic tickets, couldn’t manage my money and was staying at my aunt’s house on a mattress on the floor with my daughter in my little cousin’s room.
Finally, my aunt had had enough of me focusing incompletely on providing for my daughter. She told me I had less than a month to leave her house and I needed to find at least a room to rent for me and her. I also needed to find a good job for myself so that I can provide for her.
At the time, I was on food stamps and EBT. I was going to the gym because I was tired of being overweight. And shortly before my brother had died I had decided to go vegan.
But for the most part, I had tons of emotional issues.
My dad took pity on me and called in a favor. He asked one of his colleagues if she’d be willing to assign me to work part time at her office. I took the job, and it was there, under the close scrutiny of a racist, republican German woman that I learned to become more organized and responsible.
But my dad triggered me. One day, we were having lunch at this Asian restaurant he was constantly frequenting and he asked me why I didn’t just quit and become a teacher or something. I grew enraged and told him that I would never give up.
My ego was bruised, but he meant well. And it was true…I really did need to take better care of my daughter and myself and it seemed like the way I was managing things with my music wasn’t really working,
Then, one day, I realized I had never completed an application to be a teacher’s aide for the ABC Unified District.
So, I dropped off my daughter at school and I decided to finish the application.
I walked in ready to take a test and I remember feeling pretty confident. But the office manager took one look at my qualifications and said, “but you have a bachelor’s degree. Why don’t you just sub?”
And that’s when it began.
I had already had lots of experience in the classroom and being around children always came naturally.
But really, being in the classroom for me was just the path of least resistance in an effort to pull myself out of my negative circumstances while learning to become more organized and responsible and also making a difference.
I thought about all the perks: Working with kids, which I had always loved, working during school hours which meant less time away from Camille and free nights to be able to work on my music, and pretty decent pay for the hours assigned.
I went for it.
It was the easiest job interview ever. I suspect that the HR manager for hiring at the time was a feminist because she was fascinated by my credentials and what I had decided to spend time learning at the University. She also really liked it that I was a singer.
Before I knew it, it was my first day in the classroom.
I had my daughter enrolled for kindergarten at the school closest to her grandma’s house so she could help me with pickups and drop-offs and it was like that that I was able to get to school and get Cammie to school on time.
Shortly after I was able to move out of my cousin’s bedroom in my aunt’s house and found a room in a house on my own that I shared with Cammie.
All of my stuff had been in storage since my brother died and now I could finally take it out and put it in my own room with my kid.
We went from sleeping on an air mattress at my brother Angel’s second baby momma’s house to sleeping on an old mattress on the floor of my cousin’s room to sleeping on my brother’s old full sized bed that he used back when we lived together on Curtis and King Rd. in Norwalk here at this new place on Studebaker Rd.
At this time, I was still making music.
I rejoiced about getting the job because it meant me having stability in my life.
And from the very first day, I fell in love with the job.
Man, it’s crazy to even realize that this was over 5 years ago.
Over 5 years ago, me, at least 30 pounds heavier, with Cammie barely in kindergarten, trying so hard to sing and trying so hard to make ends meet and making so many mistakes along the way, and here I am now, 5 years later working long term at a high school and gigging at least 4-5 times weekly while my daughter aces all of her tests, is in a performing arts magnet school and is happy. 5 years later with my own place and my own car, with a website for my music and projects on Itunes and Spotify, with over 15 thousand followers on Instagram and a Youtube Channel.
I’m happy, but I am not satisfied.
I was able to achieve a lot, but I want more.
Because, to be very honest, I want to sing full time.
My objective is to sing full time.
And I don’t want to go another year with my students asking me, Ms. Cervantes, what are you doing here? Why aren’t you out there singing?
When am I gonna go ham and finally decide to fully believe in myself?
With this book, I am going to recount my journey to all of you, my students. This is for all of you. This is for those of you who feel like your hardships are too great for you to make it out of them. This is for all of you who feel like you’re not enough.
I am still working through my own issues, but I pray that at least by opening up to you about my journey I can inspire you to go for it in ways that I couldn’t, and by sharing my own lessons with you, you’ll be better prepared than I was for what my life threw at me. Most importantly, I am writing this to show you who I really am and why I appreciate all of you so much.
Here are the lessons I have learned along the way as your singing sub.
Thank you so much for giving me the courage to be honest with myself and to really go for it. Here goes EVERYTHING!