Melisa and I decided to enjoy the nice Spring weather by meeting on a terrace overlooking Atocha station. She was kind enough to meet me right before the Easter Holidays.
First of all, how are you doing?
I'm doing well. I am really enjoying this sunny weather after all of the rain we have been having.
How did you end up in Madrid?
After I graduated from college, I spent a year working in a physical therapy clinic which was great since that is what I studied. While I liked my job, I started questioning whether I wanted to do physical therapy anymore. Before I go back to school in whatever I end up doing, I decided I wanted to take a break.
Why did you choose Spain?
So I really like to travel and I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country. I was exposed to many Spanish speakers in my job. I looked into programs in South America. I found out that because the hemispheres are different, most positions start in February. Honestly, I didn’t want to wait that long. My friend and my cousin both participated in an English Teaching program here in Madrid and recommended it to me. So off I went.
And are you happy with your decision?
Absolutely! My current job allows me to legally live in a foreign country, make some money, and be able to travel. While, I plan on going back to school, I am in no rush.
How did you meet Shimada?
I don't get my hair cut very often and as you can imagine, I wanted a good haircut. I ideally wanted someone who spoke English. I asked around and my coworkers from my school recommended him, so I decided to give him a try. He was a great person and I liked my haircut. That is how it started.
How did you get involved in the “La Modelo del Mes” project?
Well, I just walked in one day with my windblown hair...not really. While he was cutting my hair, the topic of his project came up. He was telling me about how his business has been successful and that he just wants to give back in a way. He asked me if I had any stories that I thought would be interesting to share for this project. I was comfortable with him, so I was willing to open up a bit and tell him my story.
So would you be willing to share the story you shared with him?
It is really hard to talk about it without getting emotional, probably because I don't talk about it very much. When I was fifteen, I went out to a party with my best friend and her sister. We had been drinking and my friend's sister drove us home. I don't remember well what happened next. One moment we were going off the road, the next moment I was talking with police officers, and then I am in the hospital. Over the next few days, I kept asking about my friends while I was in the hospital. The doctors kept giving me different responses. In the end, I somehow survived and they didn't. Even though it is difficult to think about, I feel incredibly lucky.
How did you move forward from something like that?
In all honesty, that was probably the most difficult thing. It’s still very surreal, but I do live every day for them. It really made me think more about life and the bigger picture. Even now, I try to process what happened. I would eventually learn that everyone has their own degrees of suffering, whether traumatic or not. Everyone suffers in their own way. How you take that and what you do is what determines your outlook in life. Mine was to go and move forward.
What were some ways the helped you to change your outlook?
Well, I am sure my friends would want me to live my life. I still experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I would eventually come across a more new age topic known as Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). Depending on many factors such as your life circumstances, your family, your general support group, you can grow from your experiences. I might of never wanted to leave the house or never be in a car again. Instead I wanted to discover more things, it has me searching for something in life. Obviously. it took me a long time to get here. But PTG focuses on some of the positive effects that can result from difficult or traumatic events that happen to you.
How did you come across this information?
I read a lot. Reading about people in similar circumstances gave me hope which was integral for the healing process. I still have symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks. It made me happy to know that there is something else after that. I took a suggestion and I did a lot of mediation in college to help. That taught me the importance of introspection to keep yourself grounded. I learned you handle life with your own perspective, some people are going to go through difficult events and some not as difficult. But for each individual, you have to handle it and react to it. Life is short, you can make and do what you want with it. You can choose how you see the world. I choose to focus on optimism and positivity.
Do you do mediation here in Madrid?
In Madrid, I do not actively do meditation. I still utilize things that I learned in my classes, one of the most important things is to making time for myself. I keep a journal with writing and sketches. I also still read and enjoy books. That's good enough for me right now.
How did you feel when Shimada asked you to share your story?
I was hesitant at first. I told him I would think about it. By the end of the day, I decided to help him. I don't see my story as extremely out of the ordinary. Car accidents happen all the time. What happened is not something I should be ashamed. I wanted to help him with this project. It does make me emotional sharing it because you reevaluate what has happened to you. Honestly, it feels foreign talking about it now. I was nervous, but I was also excited to get to be a model.
Did Shimada tell you what he planned on doing?
No, I was clueless. I came a week before so he could look at my hair and come up with some ideas. I think he put my hair in braid. The actual day, we ended up doing something completely different.
How was the day of the shoot?
At first a bit stressful. I ended up sleeping through my alarm and I ended up showing up an hour late. I called and apologized and said I would be there as quick as possible. Fortunately, there was still time to get everything done.
Once you made it there, were you comfortable with getting your hair and makeup done?
It was awesome, I was just chilling. He got me breakfast and I was just loving life.
How long did the whole process take?
I was there for five hours. It took about two hours to get prepared, so maybe an hour just for the makeup. I was a little nervous because a lot of people were looking. I just tried to let him do his thing. He did have me walk down the building and twirl which was a little bit weird. I don't model so he knows better than me what he's looking for. I only told a few people I was doing this so it would be pretty funny for my friends in the area to see my modeling.
How did you feel about the results?
I haven’t seen them, but he showed me some during the shoot which helped me a lot.
Be open-minded and let Shimada do his own thing. Also, make it on time. The next time I'll set four alarms not three.
So what are you future plans?
Well, I still really want to go to South America. My plan as of now is to go to Argentina for potentially six months, maybe longer. There is a small chance that I may stay here, but I would like to go to a different region, maybe Seville? We'll see.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the contributing authors and those interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the views of Shimada Kemp: Peluquero y estilista.