You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one

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karissabarcelo@gmail.com


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Karissa Lissette Barcelo

"Children look at everything and see the magic."

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I was born in New York City on October 23rd, 1985. That year, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" mini-movie premiered. Also, gas was $1.09 p/gallon. What a time to be alive.


My beautiful mother Caroline was of Polish decent, Detroit-born. My father was of Puerto Rican and Spanish decent, from the Bronx. I use past-tense for a reason, which I will get into later.


When I was 4, my mother moved us to Miami Beach, Florida. I was exposed to a melting pot of so many different cultures. For the longest time I thought all of America was that way. I had friends who were Italian, French, Brazilian, Cuban. Actually, very few were American. My best childhood friends were German of Turkish decent. Their mother had a huge influence on the woman I would become. She was a self-proclaimed gypsy, career-driven and a single mother who moved to the states in search of a better life for her two daughters. She was eclectic and creative. I distinctly remember her boho apartment, it smelled like incense, and Enigma played on the cassette player. She taught me how to put a condom on a guy. I didn't learn that from my own Mother. I grew up with a lot of love in different forms. I had what you'd call a happy childhood.


Growing up in Miami Beach in the 90s: Lincoln Road, Romero Britto, The Spice Girls, Mangos Tropical Cafe on a Saturday night, gay novelty shops on Collins Ave, steel drums at Monty's, Florida Marlins games, Versace's death, roller skates, "Turn The Beat Around" and so much more. 

"We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey."

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I lost both my parents at 25 years old. 


It makes for a great headline, but it does not define me. It's simply a chapter in my life.


My Dad was in and out of the hospital for as long as I can remember. When I was 14, he told me he had heart problems and I shouldn't expect him to be around much longer. Since he knew I idolized and adored him, maybe he was trying to prepare me emotionally. That night I prayed to God that I could have my father until I was an adult, until I was 25. Shortly before my 26th birthday, my father died of congestive heart failure. 


Throughout his "sickness" my Mother often complained of cramps in her abdomen. She dismissed it as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We urged her to see a doctor, but she insisted that my father's health was priority at the time. A month after my Dad passed, she finally went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. We were shocked. She died 5 months later. 


I was 26, my brother just 22. I cried more for him, than for myself. "He's too young! This isn't fair!" I'd scream into a pillow. I experienced anger, sorrow, pity and everything in between. Here we were, in the prime of our young adulthood, having to navigate life on our own, without our dear parents... But as loud as I would scream, something else screamed louder. We'd be just fine. In fact, we'd be great.


Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided life was short. I saw people suffering in my Dad's rehap facility. That could be me one day. It was important that I embraced the life I had and moving on was not only okay, it was healthy.


Film and TV production was a passion of mine. It was a life-long dream of mine to live and work in New York City, so I moved. I took Frank Sinatra's song literally -- I made it there so I could make it anywhere. Some months later I moved to LA. I fulfilled life-long dreams. I couldn't ignore or dismiss my grief, so I took it along with me. I embraced the pain, and I channeled it into fuel. The show must go on.


“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

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Death and divorce rank high on the list of life's greatest stressors.


I wasn't married, but I might as well have been. I was engaged to someone I was set on marrying even though it didn't feel quite right from the beginning. 


Five years in, my relationship was failing and I didn't have my Mom to call. It was a low moment. I knew that if I took a risk and left everything, as painful as it might be in the interim, I would be okay.


It's so important to trust in the unknown. Take it from me. I surrendered to the future and I believed I'd be happy no matter what, and I am.


My advice if you are dealing with hardship;. Find humor in everything. Yes, everything. Laugh a lot, as dark as it may be. 


More to come...



"What if I fall?" ... Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” - Erin Hanson



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